They Rule

Screenshot of They Rule, Josh On (2004).

After a discussion about the conceptual entity-relationship model, FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) in one of my classes last week, I was reminded of a lecture I attended in undergrad 8-ish years ago on They Rule, a then-new project from the San Francisco-based art collective, Futurefarmers. Today I was happy to discover that it still exists and can be found here.

They Rule is a visualization tool of the so-called ruling class of the United States created by Josh On. “It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors. Some individuals sit on 5, 6 or 7 of the top 1000 companies. It allows users to browse through these interlocking directories and run searches on the boards and companies. A user can save a map of connections complete with their annotations and email links to these maps to others. They Rule is a starting point for research about these powerful individuals and corporations.”

Unfortunately this database is not live and, since the boards of these companies frequently change, it’s very likely the data is no longer up to date. Regardless, it’s a nice illustration of the potential for entity-relationship models beyond just the organization of bibliographic information, not to mention food for thought about “the structure of our society and [for] whose benefit it is run.”

I encourage you to check it out, play around and make some connections of your own!

A couple of additional related links:

  • If you’re feeling lazy, there’s a YouTube video of someone demonstrating They Rule step-by-step with commentary.
  • It was also part of the 2011 exhibit, Talk to Me, at MoMA.

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