a story about obsessive image searching

I’m not the fastest searcher in the world, but I am persistent–or obsessive. This was one of those times where I spent a good amount of time not hydrating or blinking as I doggedly pursued an answer. I was going to post this under research log, but it might actually be more personally revealing than intellectual.

When reading another MOOC participant’s blog post, I encountered a graphic that I enjoyed (click on the link to find the full image–above is just a crop). The secondary footnote stated the following:

**I tried to trace the image back to an original source, but alas, I hit a dead end at this link, and anyone else out there who reblogged the image has made it clear they did not design it themselves. And this difficulty in attributing an original source for this image is a perfect example of what metaliteracy seeks to address: not so much in correcting the fact that attributing an original source for the image is difficult, but in making us aware that it matters that this is so. (Is your head spinning yet? 😉 )

I can’t pass up a good challenge, but this one was somewhat challenging (but not the hardest, which maybe I’ll recount another time). You may want to give it a try before reading on.

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My first thought was to use Google’s “Search by image” feature. Unfortunately, its best guess for keywords was [highly sensitive person]. Not a good start.

At first, I thought it might be something out of the book it recommends. After skimming through the first few results, I just realized that a particular blog that used some variation of those terms (and posted the picture at some point) was repeating itself in the results.

As with the original poster, I hit a lot of dead ends. I decided to then search time range.

With every year I went back, the results became fewer and fewer. There was a Reddit page that seemed promising, but ultimately fizzled out when I couldn’t figure out what exact post had attached the image. There were also plenty of people who didn’t credit the image, but it was clear (well, it wasn’t always clear) that they were curating content and not uploading original stuff.

I found myself at a loss. The last year with any result had only one, and it wasn’t what I was looking for.

I restarted my search.

I switched to Bing.

No luck.

After restarting my search a third time, I decided it was time to go at it the long way: scouring through double-digit results. I revisited several pages that I had seen before. Examined file names more closely. Tried text searches describing the image.

Desperation took hold.

Well, maybe not that dramatic but it certainly was frustrating. After several more minutes of reading, I did eventually find exactly one post in my original results that credited a certain Tumblr blog (SPOILER), and I’m fairly confident* that the owner of this blog drew it.

Oh, and this was over about an hour and a half between two days. Am I crazy?**

*I second-guessed myself for a while because it seemed too easy at that point, so I compared pen strokes from the drawing to her other ones. Seemed close enough.

**After that first footnote, all signs point to ‘yes’!

One thought on “a story about obsessive image searching

  1. Donna Witek says:

    Ok, this is awesome. LOL Good job! I def did not give it nearly as much time (perhaps 20 minutes of searching?) but even if I had, I doubt I would have found the original source as you have. I’m also not savvy at.all. with Google’s “Search by Image” feature. Thanks for the plug though, and glad it posed a personally satisfying challenge for you! 🙂 It *is* a very applicable graphic to be sure.

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