Scattered throughout the thirty million or so books digitized by Google, unexpected fingers erupt from the sequences of pages, captured by overhead cameras before the scanner has removed her hand. The rubber-tipped fingers have attracted a fascinated attention since the beginning of the project. Here, in a metal frame painted pink to match the “condom” on the book scanner’s finger, this accidental image, along with others like it, became an art object shown in metropolitan capitals.
A blog entitled The Art of Google Books collects other such “adversaria”—expanded to include stains, folds, rips, blurrings—that scavengers find among the digital files. Testaments to the often erased labor within digitization and to the “low quality” of Google’s scans, the instances of imperfect process bring a sort of delight to the company’s critics.
I have chosen this image as my artifact for the New Media, New Publics symposium website because, as noise in the machine, the fingers, if only for a moment, bring digitization to a halt. The artist’s rendering extends that moment further, and, in my own anthropo- logical inquiry into the mass digitization of books, I seek to do the same.