Each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated. We are living through a widely distributed amateur creativity. We are in the age of sharing, in the age of user-generated content. In Forma Fluens (Latin: Flowing Form) you are not a passive observer or consumer. With our DoodleMaps, you can be the author of one of the stories that emerge from the exploration of millions of drawings. Or you can generate new icons from the overlap of thousands of drawings with IconoLap. Finally, in the video Points in Movement you can observe an overlap of millions of drawings and find out how all humanity draws some forms in the same way.
All those varieties of drawings push us to expand our idea of beauty. The collection of the entire QuickDraw dataset in a single large-scale image develops a visual language that uncovers the building blocks of modernist Pop art, Street art - Keith Haring - with repetition of the same subject in multiple variations. Every single drawing is more or less close to the raw-art vision of Jean Dubuffet, where the traditional standards of beauty are not followed in favor of a more authentic approach to image-making. Generated in a few seconds these drawings never became too mannered, and offer a fascinating window into human cognitive activity.
The lines that compose every drawing are in free finger movements, the signs people use are never identical, sometimes close to the reality, sometimes are so close to a personal vision of the reality, that it becomes too obscure to be understandable.
The similarity of form in the drawings could be a similarity in the cultural atmosphere, a similarity of ideals, a similarity in the inner feeling expressed in these external forms: My drawing reveals how I see the object represented, how I imagine, and how I remember it.
Time sequence on how 113,508 people draw a panda.
Time sequence on how 125,795 people draw a human eye.
Time sequence on how 133,676 people draw the sun.
Time sequence on how 161,515 people draw a human face.
These sketches come from QuickDraw, a game where we are invited to represent an object, action, animal in 30 seconds. In order to win, I have to find in a few seconds how to represent a stop signal, rain, apple, mouth.
In just a few months the game has become very popular, and now this is the largest collection of sketches ever created, with over 50 million. A gigantic number that represents the power of a collective expression of society. These drawings are a form of direct thinking, they offer a form of embodied abstraction of reality for all the humanity.
Can these drawings collection make us understand something new about humanity? By using these data, can we study the differences in how we see and remember things in relation to our local culture?
We have found drawings from 215 different nations. There are a few places in the world where this game has not arrived, such as Antarctica, Cuba, Cook Islands, Sahara, Sierra Leone ... But 45% of these drawings come from the US, followed by the UK (7%), Canada (4%), Germany (3%), Australia, Russia, Brazil, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Italy are at 2%, followed by many other countries at 1% such as Korea, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Japan, Emirates, Taiwan, and many more.
To make our analysis more meaningful we decided to observe only nations with at least 200,000 drawings and a minimum of 1000 drawings for each category. This means limiting our observations to a group of 34 nations.
This is a game with a predominantly anglophone audience. As a small test, if players from around the world are not US citizens on vacation we had a look at the power outlet sketches.
Power outlet from Germany.
Power outlet from Japan.
Power outlet from Malaysia.
Power outlet from Sweden.
By applying the overlap, we can define the typical form of a power outlet in each nation. The results seem to confirm that most players draw the corresponding power outlet of the nation they connected from. Because the game requires an object to be drawn in 20 seconds, we can assume that the design is instinctive and representative of the power outlet idea of its own nation.
After this experiment we can therefore assume that we can use these data as representative of 34 different countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, United Kingdom, Viet Nam.
Step 1. We identify categories with strong convergence and strong divergence.
Examples of strong convergence: wine bottle, asparagus, bowtie, envelope, circle, and many more.
For some categories we also observe a strong convergence in the sequence of drawing sketches. We tend to draw outer shapes first to define a frame and then add details. See how many people start drawing the head shape (circle) for a smiley first, and then adding eyes and mouth. Similar is true for cars, etc. With our video Points in Movement you can observe this behavior more in detail.
Many categories are ambiguous. Their iconography is diverging. Examples are: Arm, Backpack, Banana, Bed, Dragon, Frog, Lightning, Mosquito and many more. With our IconoLap tool you might still be able to find clusters of convergence.
Step 2. We excluded from the analysis of regional cultural dynamics all categories with strong convergence, objects designed in the same way all over the world, or at least in our 34 nations. We applied the same overlap technique to each category divided by country, so we could find converging images in categories that are globally divergent.
1000 drawings are not a representative sample for an entire nation, especially since there is no information on the population sample that made these drawings. However, we can observe together if there are some interesting stories that emerge from these data.
We have not observed any particular predilection that emerges regarding how to draw a banana around the world. Except in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, India, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, where most people draw it in this way:
A bear is drawn in a very similar way in Japan and Taiwan:
Australians draw boomerangs with the tip upwards:
Brazil has a prevailing way of thinking about flip flops:
Ice cream around the world is a cone with a ball on top of it, except in Italy, Sweden and Hungary, where scoops are side by side:
Teddy-bears undergo a manga restyling in Japan and Korea, their heads become bigger than the rest of their body:
Another cultural link between Japan and Taiwan, they are the only countries where traffic lights are mostly drawn horizontally:
All over the globe the phone is represented as a touchscreen, except in India and Japan, where the historical, almost iconographic form is preferred:
We have discovered that the world is divided into those who draw the whole watermelon and those who draw it in slices, cold countries like Germany and Ukraine prefer the whole version, in warmer countries like Australia slices win:
Another anomaly from hotter countries such as India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, is that the snowman consists of two snowballs, while the rest of the world prefers the version with three snowballs:
The fish swims to the left in India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, while in the rest of the world there is no agreement:
There is a lot of affinity between Korea and Japan, in both countries, for example, socks are drawn to the left:
Swans swim to the left:
And giraffes go to the left: