Google Books scanning errors turned into works of art

Google Books scanning errors turned into works of art

Andrew Norman Wilson got a lot of attention last year for his Workers Leaving the Googleplex video, which depicted a little-known group of contractors at Google’s HQ, charged with doing the scanning that feeds Google’s mission to digitize every book that it possibly can.

While Wilson lost his own contractor job in video production at Google as a result of the film, that hasn’t stopped his fascination with Google’s ‘ScanOps’, a supposedly marginalized group of workers who don’t get the same perks that many other workers in the Googleplex receive (although to be fair, they are contractors).

The latest manifestation of Wilson’s interest is ScanOps, a collection of images from the Google Books collection, many of which accidentally show the hands of the workers who scanned them (such as this example), manipulated in various ways to create works of art.

Wilson explains:

“ScanOps is based on Google Books images in which software distortions, the scanning site, and the hands of “ScanOps” employees are visible. Through varied analog presentations of these images, the material resources and processes that compose the digital are emphasized.

“These re-materializations are treated as photography – therefore they are framed to become image-sculptures, will be compiled in an art-book, and presented in a live lecture.”


ScanOps has been presented at Reed College in Portland, OR, and is due to be shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Images Festival in Toronto and the Threewalls gallery in Chicago. Meanwhile, Wilson says that he has grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the Dedalus Foundation to shoot an extension of the original video, which we’ve included below.

Wilson says that his Google-focused work examines “the transformations and continuities in arrangements of labor, capital, media, and information.”


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