The number of photographs, cartoons, and other visual representations of Bill Gates available out there is simply staggering. They range from candid snapshots to official portraits, from glossy magazine covers to digitally altered images and cartoons on personal blogs. On the day we wrote this sentence (March 6, 2008), a Google search coughed up 1,400,000 such images of the Microsoft founder and formerly richest man in the world (Figure 4.2).That is a huge number, considering that Gates does not exactly have the good looks of a Brad Pitt (who got only 1,280,000 hits on the same day) or a George
Clooney (869,000).Granted, as a tool for gauging celebrity, the Google image search function lacks scientific rigor.The image count changes slightly from day to day. It repeats some images, misses others, and churns out many that don’t depict Bill Gates at all.This is because a search engine like Google cannot really see image content. It looks instead for occurrences of the search term near an image, in a caption, or in a link to that image from somewhere else. But since these caveats also apply to image searches for Brad Pitt, George Clooney, or any other celebrity, the results are still instructive in a comparative sense.