Many smartphone users have been swept up in Google Arts and Culture, the app that has a new feature allowing people to find their historical art twin based on their own selfies. But people of color aren’t having as much fun as their white counterparts.
Via the Google Arts and Culture app, many people of color have realized the lack of diversity within the art world. Mashable’s Michael Nuñez, a Mexican-American, was matched with three white male subjects and two Asian subjects when he tried the matching feature. Asian app users, meanwhile, have found themselves matched with the same subjects, either geishas or a scramble of Asian men who bear no resemblance to the user.
So what gives, Google?
As Nuñez pointed out, Google began their art digitizing process in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany — all of which are Eurocentric regions. Just from these three locations, Google amassed a digital collection of over 800,000 pieces. Compare that to the 16,000 Mexican and 3,500 Peruvian pieces Google digitized for the app, and you can start to see why people of color are getting the short end of the stick.
Google’s Asian, Middle Eastern, and African institute partnerships are severely lacking. Just take a look at the map showing Google’s partnerships on the site’s Collections page.
The diversity that is represented in museums located in the West, and therefore on Google’s Arts and Culture app, is often tainted with racial stereotypes. As a whole, non-white people are currently massively underrepresented on the app — and it shows.
Obviously, Google has a long way to go to improve their facial recognition feature and broaden their art database. But we’ve all taken notice and are expecting a change.