They Rule
Josh On, United States
They Rule, 2001
Web site
Image created by an anonymous user of site using data from the interlocking boards of the Fortune 100.
Selected by: Jon Ippolito
One of the best examples of an artwork that uses Internet technology to make visible the hidden structures of social power, They Rule is an expandable diagram of the most influential American corporations’ board members. Unlike organizational charts and annual reports, which only indicate the members of any given board, They Rule traces the hidden connections between corporate power brokers. Using this interface, for example, it’s possible to discover that members of the boards for the so-called competitors Coke™ and Pepsi™ actually sit together on the board of a third corporation, Bristol-Myers Squibb™. They Rule sits at the intersection of political design and hacktivism. Although it derives from available public information rather than private testimonies, the database underlying the scripted interface exploits the same principle as Patrick Ball’s databases used against Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague: Once you get enough information in one place, you can draw connections you might not otherwise apprehend. They Rule also demonstrates how an artist–someone experienced in making the obscure visible–can render information in a legible, and hence instructive, form.
Josh On