How do we navigate massive visual collections of user-generated content consisting from billions of images? What new theoretical concepts do we need to deal with the new scale of born-digital culture? How do we use data mining of massive cultural data sets to question our cultural assumptions and biases?
In 2007 we established Software Studies Initiative at the University of California, San Diego to begin working on these questions. I will briefly present the techniques we developed for exploratory analysis of massive visual collections. This presentation will be illustrated with the examples of our research including analysis of 1 million pages from Manga books, and 1 million artworks from deviantArt (online community for user-created art). I will also discuss how computational analysis and visualization of big cultural data sets leads us toquestion traditional discrete categories used for cultural categorization such as "style" and "period."