Image Search: Google vs. Flickr

By roopakroopak (1228302561|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Introduction

Since I am attempting to show the problem with oil consumption, pictures are necessary for my project. There are many numbers out there, but there are usually hard to digest. In my own research, the only way I have been able to really get a grasp on the problem is through numerous graphs and charts. I decided to take a close look at Google Image Search and Flickr to find out the strengths of each and how they can help me with my project. I used the query ["oil consumption"] for both.

Google Image Search

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Just like with all types of Google searches, I was happy with the way the results were displayed. Eighteen thumbnails were displayed in rows of 6 and I could see them all on my screen with no scrolling. A few words of description were under each thumbnail. Perfect!

The results showed graphs of many different varieties. There were even a few that I had never seen before. Below is a sampling of some of the different types of graphs I came across.

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This variety of types allows for a very clear illustration of how oil consumption in various countries has grown (line graph) and how much of the world oil consumption is accounted for by each major oil-consuming country (pie graph). The stacked graph also provides an illustration of the overall oil consumption broken down by region. Through the use of these graphs and others of this sort, almost all figures relating to oil consumption could be converted into an easily understandable form. Google Image Search proved very helpful in this sense.

The results also illustrated oil consumption in map form. A couple of examples are below.

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The first is a typical oil consumption map that simply uses a legend and different colors to illustrate where oil consumption is heavy and where it is light. This is perhaps the most clear way to break down oil consumption geographically. The second is a snapshot of a Google Earth visualization for oil consumption. This is amazing! You can get these 3D charts at the Google Earth Blog. These are easily the most unique depictions of oil consumption I have seen.

Overall, Google Image Search proved to be a great tool for images relating to oil consumption, and the results contained every type of visual that I had found so far in all of my research.

Flickr

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The display of the results in Flickr wasn't nearly as appealing as in Google Image Search. The images were in list form, requiring me to scroll down the page even to browse the first few. There was a large space next to each image for description, but there was only the date uploaded and some tags next to each image. There was no description!

The images were not nearly as relevant to my search as in Google. A couple of the results were wine classes and pictures of cars. Though the cars were consuming oil, this provided me no useful information. There was also some overlap with the images in Google Image Search, including the world map and the snapshot of the Google Earth visualization.

The relevant and non-overlapping images mostly consisted of line graphs. The only new type of information that was not available in Google Image Search was in the images shown below.

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The unique thing about these images is the focus on oil consumption in the United States. The first image provides an incredible depiction of how high U.S. oil consumption is compared to the rest of the world. The second provides a nice breakdown of consumption by state in map form. Though Flickr may lack in variety of graphs, this focus on the United States is very helpful in demonstrating the oil consumption problem.

Conclusion

After taking a close look at both Google Image Search and Flickr, I was able to conclude that there was something to be gained from using both. Though I would say Google Image Search is more useful and easier to use, Flickr does provide some unique images that are very useful for my oil consumption project. An important thing to note is that I learned more about the current state of oil consumption from looking at the images I found than by looking at numbers from sources like the Energy Information Administration website. The images reminded me of the necessity of providing visualizations for something as difficult to digest as the state of U.S. and world oil consumption and the problems which will arise in the future. Image search is certainly a very useful tool that should be utilized in any research project.

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