(Just kidding This simulation’s graphic’s are super real >.<)
So, it’s the end of another semester spent traversing the weird, wild web, huh? Time definitely flew by this semester! It feels like just yesterday we were talking about the terrors of online data tracking… or maybe I’m just having flashbacks of Zuckerberg testifying before Congress >.>
This semester was definitely wild. I can honestly say I was not expecting to do as much work as I managed to pull off this semester. Check it:
Makes (And I did all these??? And only made it to 4th place -_-…sensing a pattern)
That is a lot of work. Time-consuming work. I don’t know about everyone else this semester, but it takes me a minimum of one day to write up a blog post and another to edit. That’s not to mention how long it takes to complete the week’s actual digital activities. For example, my Audacity post, my Audacity Interview post, and my posts on both Neo-Dadaism and Selfies took significantly longer time to complete. This is because 1) I am still very unfamiliar with working with audio and 2) some subjects require much more research in order to write a thoughtful/insightful post about them. The post on selfies was, after all, done in conjunction with a Twitter chat I ran on selfies as art as well (which I reflected about in another post). All this is to say that I did put a lot of effort and time and thought into my work every week. Nothing was ever hastily thrown together and I always tried to be thoughtful in my reflections.
On Twitter, too, I tried to participate regularly throughout the semester. I tweeted out @netnarr every time I posted on my blog and used #netnarr as well. I always did at least 2 DDAs a week, as well. (And, I think I tried to approach both creatively–using imaginative titles and images.) More towards the beginning of the semester, I also used the #netnarrlinks to share some interesting articles/videos I found on topics I thought relevant to the course. (Or, just interesting to me ^.^) While I’m not sure if all this activity counts as “robust use” of the platform, I would definitely say it demonstrates diligence.
As you can see, I definitely increased my activity on the platform and began posting more regularly to Twitter. More, my posting seems to have become more organized–I have more regular times of activity as well as more regular usage of hashtags and links. Retweets are still my most popular form of Twitter usage but I have certainly upped my game overall on the platform this semester.
More than all that, though, I’ve become a part of a community on Twitter. Not just my activity itself on the platform increased but my level of engagement with the platform. Before getting involved with this course and the digital humanities, I never thought of Twitter has a place capable of fostering community. But, it really is. I learned so many tips and tricks from fellow users online.
Which brings me to another point: collaboration. Twitter makes collaborating with other people so very easy. For example, one of the extra projects I participated in this semester was largely facilitated through Twitter. The NetNarr Alchemy Lab is a collaborative work, put together by so many very talented digital alchemists. Essentially, it’s an online interactive storytelling project in which I was invited to participate. You can read all about my own contribution here and the ins n’ outs of working on it but I just want to say that this was one of my most favourite activities I participated in this semester (though it wasn’t part of the course proper). Also, I want to thank everyone who reached out to me on Twitter and helped me with this project. Again, without the online community, I’m not sure how any of this would have been accomplished. Not easily, for sure.
Additionally, I did try to use my Hypothes.is as well towards the start of the semester. We kind of bailed on it as a class, though, so I hope my lack of “robust” usage of the tool will not count against me. Interestingly enough, though, I did end up using the annotating tool for another course this semester–a course on research and theory (I made 96 annotations for just that course). So, though I did not get to use my Hypothes.is know-how in this course, know it did still come in handy elsewhere~
Honestly, I’m fairly proud of all the work I accomplished in this course. My favourite assignments have to be the ones related to selfies, to memes, and to gifs. I think my Make on the #SelfieUnselfie project is one of my most meaningful, digital works to date. And, my Make on “Gifing” digital life still makes me actually laugh out loud. More, discussing memes as art objects inspired me focus my thesis on researching Neo-Dadaism in new digital media (specifically on researching the emergence of the Internet meme as a resurgence of Dada idealism). So, our discussions on these topics in class, specifically on digital art, definitely inspired me to think more deeply about the content.
That isn’t too say there weren’t subjects I found uninteresting. As mentioned before, I don’t enjoy working in audio. It’s more difficult than other mediums, yes, that’s part of why I don’t like working with audio but, also, there’s just my personal preferences. I’m a more visual person. I like art on canvas, words on the page. I like having something for my eyes to swallow, devour. Of course, I’m pleased enough with how my audio interview project turned out but, if given the choice, I would not want to repeat the project. Even having two weeks to do it, I found it to be just very complicated. More than endearing the medium to me, the project kind of turned me further off. Sorry. (I really wish my feelings were different but when I think of that project, I just remember frustration.)
Another aspect of the course I found it bit dull was the online gaming section of the course. Again, this might come down to an issue of personal preference. I just didn’t find the content to be too engaging or interesting. Also, I didn’t necessarily like looking at digital redlining as a kind of game because it’s really not. For future courses, I would like to suggest moving the issue into the area of Digital Life. (I did like my Make for this subject, though. The activity for the subject is very apt, I think. It conveys exactly what it is designed to. Also, I found the H5P tool to be fun to use. I would definitely recommend teaching future students how to use it.)
Enough with the critique!
Overall, I found this course to be fun and engaging. This semester has certainly had its ups and downs. While some activities in class came easier than others due to past experiences working with the medium, there were plenty of challenges presented by this course. This semester, I certainly had to learn how to use new tools as well as how to make peace with old rivals here’s looking at you Audacity >.>. For the most part, I think I made out pretty well. Not all of my work came out as polished as I would have liked but I still tried to do all of the work asked of me and I tried to do it well within the time constraints I had upon me. More, I tried to be creative with my work wherever I could–whether through word-play, memes, or some other insertion of my own personal panache, if you will.
Above all, I hope it comes through that I am proud of what I accomplished and of what I learned. This semester was tough but I’m tougher! I think I came out on top. But, what do you think?
This week, we’ve finally begun our much-anticipated exploration of Elit. (Perhaps, it’s only much-anticipated on my end though…?)
Delving into Elit
As I may have mentioned before, I’ve taken a few courses already on ELiterature and networked narratives. And so, I’ve already developed a bit of a soft spot for the genre. I find the experimentation and spontaneity and interactivity of Elit to be engaging in a way that is not better than traditional literature but that allows for more of my senses to be involved in the experience of the work. It’s different. Especially when it comes to poetry and prose shared in this genre, I find something special and almost magickal about the work.
I’ve often heard criticism that digital work–writing and art, particularly–are somehow less meaningful for their “digital-ness.” Like, because a work is made to be experienced through a digital interface, it is somehow inherently less capable of conveying meaning or initiating meaningful dialogue. Or, more simply, it’s just less.
That line of thinking couldn’t be farther from my own. More, it couldn’t be farther from the truth of my own experience of both interacting with works of Elit and with making my own work of Elit.
Two particular works of Elit that come to mind when I think of ones that have touched me are Jason Nelson’s This is How You Will Dieand Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. I mentioned Nelson’s work earlier when discussing Dada in new digital media and have written at length about this particular work. Nelson’s work is a kind of kinetic poetry with a dash of generative fiction thrown in. As for Porpentine’s work, I went into great detail about my thoughts on this piece here. The “story” is a work of hypertext fiction created using Twine (a platform of which I’m not so much a fan myself but that seems to work amazingly for other people) and it is an absolutely beautiful work. I love everything about it from the diction used to the background sounds and the colours. Read my full review of it if you want but I found this work of Elit to be a particularly poignant articulation and exploration of experiencing trauma and moving on from it. (*Fun fact, this work was on display at the Whitney Museum’s 2017 Biennial exhibit and I got to see it~)
Revisiting EPoetry and Prose
For this week, I decided to explore another work of EPoetry/Prose from the 3rd volume of the Elit collection. The work I chose is Ask Me for the Moonby John David Zuern. It is a work of kinetic poetry. The lines of the poetry in the piece ebb and flow into each other likes waves on the shore of a beach.
*The work starts with one line of poetry that overlaps and fades until it becomes the horizon for a slowly increasing cityscape–that of Waikīkī, this work being set in Hawaii.
Once you enter the work–by clicking on the screen in order to “ask me for the moon”–there are also missing spaces in some of the lines and particular quoted phrases in some of the lines too. These differences in the lines are filled in by excerpts from related works once the poem finishes ebbing and flowing out and from the screen. The poem will fade into the background and either the quoted phrase or the blank space will be emphasized as an excerpt from another work fades in on the screen.
The contents of the introduced excerpts revolve around the colonization and industrialization of Hawaii. More, around the commodification of the islands’ themselves, their natural resources, and the natives’ culture. The seen vs. the unseen is also invoked by this piece as the images one clicks to engage with the poetry are of different kinds of labor and work–the line of these images cutting across a beach scene at night. In the editorial statement for this work, these decisions are described as such:
“John David Zuern’s Ask Me For the Moon is a digital poem created in Adobe Flash using juxtaposed images, words, and sounds, to create the feeling of the labor behind the scenes at a Hawaii resort. The images and colors (black, white, and turquoise dominate) paint a picture of Waikiki that is emphasized in Zuern’s notes on the piece, which observe that at the time the piece was made there was approximately one worker for every two and a half visitors to Waikiki. The text of the piece plays over the faded gray landscape of the island, while the moving pictures depict fragments of labor moving through like waves along the shore. The visual poetics serve as a poignant reminder of how much work is done at night, out of sight of the tourists who swarm the island.”
Zuern says of his own work, “I was looking for a way to bring concrete details of my experience of working in Waikīkī into some kind of dialogue with what I was learning about the history and politics of the tourism industry in Hawai‘i. I wanted the poetry to quote but also, in a sense, to inhabit and illuminate the writing of philosophers and critics, calling attention to their own deployment of image and metaphor. At the time, it seemed important to keep the file size as small as possible, and notions of compression and constraint wound up governing many of my formal considerations, including my decision to write in haiku, to employ a somewhat restricted vocabulary and palette, and to include small images with minimal animation.”
For his purposes, I think Zuern’s work becomes a compelling commentary. At first, I was thrown off by the constrained format and the minimal amount of direction/interactivity of the work but once I realized the scope of the content of the work, I began to appreciate the aesthetic and technical decisions of the work. It’s definitely more simple than many other contemporary works of Elit but I think that simplicity makes a statement about what is being lost. In that way, I think this work transcends itself.
What do you think, though? More, what do you feel when engaging with this work? Do you feel the loss, the longing for a return to something simpler? Or, do you feel something else?
On Making Our Own Elit
If we are making our own works of Elit, I’m definitely interested in making a work of EPoetry/Prose. So far, I’ve translated my poetry into metalworks (which is a process, let me tell you) but I would like to expand into Elit with it. The work of Elit I created before was one of prose and so I would definitely like to expand upon what I can do with Elit and the medium.
That said, I would like to express concern with the time-frame for creating this Elit piece–if we are. I had an entire semester to work on the other piece of Elit I made and during that semester I was learning how to use many different kinds of tools and whatnot to create my piece. It was a whole, long process. And, even then, it was still a struggle to create the work I did due to how long it takes to do anything/translate anything it seems into a digital format as well as how overall challenging and strenuous it can be. There were many, many ideas and drafts scrapped along the way.
Anyway, I guess I just want to both inform, maybe, expectations as well as ask for a clearer understanding of what will be expected of us if we are making a work of Elit.
(I’ve rocked a few regrettable interesting looks, huh???)
Images are moments and if moments are experiences, then what experience does the “selfie” capture?
What is the selfie? What does it represent?
Well, that depends.
When it comes to social perceptions, the selfie, like most new digital media, typically gets a bad rep. What did you think society would say???
According to one article in Jezebel, by Erin Gloria Ryan, “Selfies aren’t empowering; they’re a high tech reflection of the f*cked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.” and “Selfies aren’t empowering little sources of pride, nor are they narcissistic exercises by silly, conceited b*tches. They’re a logical technically enabled response to being brought up to think that what really matters is if other people think you’re pretty.”Wow. Did you catch that double “not empowering”?
But, is this a fair assessment of the selfie? Is there nothing redeemable about this new digital form?
The article Ryan write hers in response to begs to differ. In “Selfies Are Good for Girls”, author Rachel Simmons says of selfies,“If you write off the endless stream of posts as image-conscious narcissism, you’ll miss the chance to watch girls practice promoting themselves—a skill that boys are otherwise given more permission to develop, and which serves them later on when they negotiate for raises and promotions.” More, Simmons asserts, “The selfie suggests something in picture form—I think I look [beautiful] [happy] [funny] [sexy]. Do you?—that a girl could never get away with saying. It puts the gaze of the camera squarely in a girl’s hands, and along with it, the power to influence the photo’s interpretation.” This idea that the selfie can be a means of self-promotion and new form of communication otherwise unavailable on a personal scale is echoed in an interview conducted by NPR with digital artist, Molly Soda. Soda says, “I think a selfie is a really, really positive thing, whether or not its art, it’s super positive affirmation of self-love. And taking your photo and putting it on the Internet for the world to see is an act of positivity.” And, of the selfie’s particular dialogue, she says, “When I’m scrolling on my Instagram and I see a photo of a girl that she took of herself and I know she’s feeling really good that day about herself, that makes me feel good and that makes me want to photograph myself, and I think it’s a chain reaction.”
So, which is it?
Are selfies vain, self-centered, narcissistic, self-indulgent, and exploitative at best? Or, can they be these positive, celebrations of the self–especially for women?
More, are these even the right questions we should be asking? Are they detracting or distracting from what the selfie truly represents? Or, what it could represent? We could argue a moral imperative all semester and never reach any conclusions, in my mind. More, this kind of argument reduces the selfie to nothing more or less than an extension vanity or personal expression. This kind of discussion leads nowhere, to me, and fails to adequately recognize a new genre of digital media, of digital art: The Selfie.
Where’s the Art?
In Soda’s interview, she refers to selfies as “an exploratory art form” and, when discussing whether or not the selfie is art, she refers to “the selfie culture”. Not the phenomenon. Culture. To me, the intersection of culture and exploration finds you in the heart of art.
That said, as with social perceptions, perceptions in the art world typically leaned towards skeptical at best when discussing the selfie. (If we were playing “Sh*t People Say About Digital Media” bingo, I’d have “the decline of culture”, “global calamity”, “millennials”, &, to abbreviate, “tech bad” all marked off from reading some of the “less-credible” sources I came across~)
Anyway, attitudes seem to be shifting away from not even considering the selfie in the realm of art to giving it not only worthwhile consideration but even an exhibition this past year. For anyone who’s familiar with how the art world operates, that’s a huge shift. New genres–which are defined in the art world as forms that, “possess their own formal logic, with tropes and structural wisdom, and last a long time until all the problems they were created to address are addressed (different from style i.e Impressionism, Cubism, Dada)–arise very rarely and curators, art critics, art historians, and art enthusiasts tend to be lukewarm at best when it comes to new genres. (Some never warm up)
So, what’s the word on the selfie?
It seems that despite social perceptions or personal convictions, there is a “selfie-ness” that all selfies share and that is easily identifiable. We all know when we’re looking at a selfie, yeah? In “Selfies Are Art”, an article in The Atlantic that addresses both Ryan and Simmon’s articles, author Noah Berlatsky directly states, “The selfie may be good or it may be bad, but Simmons and Ryan agree that its essence is all one thing or all the other. Aberrations are to be explained away.” More, Berlastsky says, “The selfie is a deliberate, aesthetic expression—it’s a self-portrait, which is an artistic genre with an extremely long pedigree. There can be bad self-portraits and good self-portraits, but the self-portrait isn’t bad or good in itself. Like any art, it depends on what you do with it.”
In the article for the exhibition on selfies, curator Nigel Hurst, when asked if selfies are art is quoted as responding, “The simple answer to that is that everything can be art if it’s followed through by the maker with enough conviction and coherence, and also that enough people accept and believe that it’s art…We’re not saying that the slideshow of a teenager trying out various poses is as significant as a work by Rembrandt, but the art world cannot ignore this phenomenon.”
Now, it’s interesting that both Hurst and Berlatsky, unlike Simmons or Ryan, compare the selfie to a contemporary portraiture. That said, this is a fairly common comparison made. The excellent and enlightening Art Assignmentchannel on Youtube has a rather in-depth video on the subject, comparing self-portraits and self-taken photos to the contemporary selfie.
While a strong case is made for the selfie being an extension or an evolution of the self-portraiture genre and, certainly, being associated with such a prestigious genre with such a long history would be a boon, not everyone is of this mind–myself included.
In a Vulture article by Jerry Saltz, a case is made for why the selfie is its own distint genre, separate from traditional portraiture.
Saltz says, “These [Selfies] are not like the self-portraits we are used to. Setting aside the formal dissimilarities between these two forms—of framing, of technique—traditional photographic self-portraiture is far less spontaneous and casual than a selfie is. This new genre isn’t dominated by artists. When made by amateurs, traditional photographic self-portraiture didn’t become a distinct thing, didn’t have a codified look or transform into social dialogue and conversation. These pictures were not usually disseminated to strangers and were never made in such numbers by so many people. It’s possible that the selfie is the most prevalent popular genre ever.
Essentially, selfies are not portraits. At least, they aren’t just portraits.
(“If both your hands are in the picture and it’s not a mirror shot, technically, it’s not a selfie—it’s a portrait.”)
Aside from technical differences–that the camera is in the hands of the photographer, always within arm’s length (making a hint of the arm a feature of most), off-center subjects, distorted or exaggerated features due to the camera lenses of most phones,–selfies convey a different meaning than a traditional self portrait or photograph.
Selfies are almost always present, too. Traditional portraiture and photography was simply incapable of that immediacy. Even if the selfie shared is from a few years back or is used in a #ThrowbackThursday post on Instagram, there is still this sense of the original posting, this sense of a moment captured to be instantly shared. Selfies are experiences meant, almost always, to be shared, whether with a small audience or a large one. This also means most selfies are not accidental. Of this, Saltz states, “Whether carefully staged or completely casual, any selfie that you see had to be approved by the sender before being embedded into a network. This implies control as well as the presence of performing, self-criticality, and irony. The distributor of a selfie made it to be looked at by us, right now, and when we look at it, we know that. (And the maker knows we know that.)”
In this way, I do find selfies to be empowering, especially to women who have been subjected to the male gaze and all that applies for all of history. Being able to control the perception of yourself, even in such a small way, is an assertion of power. Despite what Ryan says in her article, that element of control is in and of itself what makes the selfie an empowering art form. That selfies can only be responses to a societal standard already in play or that selfies can never be anything other than an extension of this need for validation from others seems like an over-generalization, to me. And, that stance does not allow for the selfie to be looked at as an art form.
In fact, as the genre has come into its own, “selfie culture” seems to be more about subverting expectations. Or, it’s about questioning expectations. Asking people to see more than is usually expected.
Selfies become more that self-portraits, then. They become invitations to a dialogue, a conversation in which we all participate.
Now, you may say, “Kelli” or “Heltsekffkkfj” whatever the f*ck, right? (idk how you refer to me in your head, if you do) “I don’t even take selfies. How can I be a part of this ‘conversation’ you speak of??? What even kind of conversation is being carried out through selfies?”
I’m glad you asked~
See, whether or not you’ve personally taken a selfie, you’ve seen them, you know people who take them, you’ve seen people take them. Point is, you know what they are. Selfies are almost as pervasive as they are controversial. Or, controversial as they are pervasive?? Think those 2 things go hand in hand. More to the point, you’ve interacted with selfies. You’ve read them or you read them, so to speak, almost daily. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m pretty good at telling a “show-off” shot from a “I’m feeling nice today” one. There’s a different feeling a Kim K. selfie gives off than one of my co-worker Christina, staring straight into the camera with slight smile, yeah? However you categorize selfies–and I bet you do–you know there are differences, differences conveyed only in that slight smile, eyes half looking at the camera, half at some point above it, only in that superior tilt of one’s chin, that glimmer in their eye, that hint of a curvaceous figure in the mirror.
Selfies have a language and we are all fast becoming fluent in it.
Saltz says, “Selfies are our letters to the world. They are little visual diaries that magnify, reduce, dramatize—that say, ‘I’m here; look at me.'” He continues on to speak about what some of his favorite kinds of selfies are: “Everyone has their own idea of what makes a good selfie. I like the ones that metamorphose into what might be called selfies-plus—pictures that begin to speak in unintended tongues, that carry surpluses of meaning that the maker may not have known were there. Barthes wrote that such images produce what he called ‘a third meaning,’ which passes ‘from language to significance.'” Saltz likes selfies that tell stories. That speak of things beyond the literal, beyond just the self in the selfie. Things that are not spoon-fed to readers but that are still present, just below the surface. And, if you care to look, you can see them. “I’m talking about more unstable, obstinate meanings that come to the fore: fictions, paranoia, fantasies, voyeurism, exhibitionism, confessions—things that take us to a place where we become the author of another story. That’s thrilling. And something like art.”
But it’s more than art. It’s all of those meanings just below the surface coming into conversation with themselves and with us. We interpret. We imagine. We investigate. We create. Then, we share.
In this article, Saltz shares a selfie a man took on a trip to Auschwitz. What do you see? More, what do you feel?
It’s not just a selfie, right? There are so many associations culminating in this one imagine that create story that is more than its selfie parts. Maybe you’re horrified that this kid thought it was okay to make a “joke” out of Auschwitz. Maybe you’re not surprised. Maybe you feel something else. Point it, you feel something. You’re reacting to something conveyed. Something was said and you have a response. You are in dialogue with this selfie.
Not all selfies ask us new questions. Some confirm what we knew. Maybe this one confirmed you lack of faith in humanity…. Some ask us just to bask in a moment with the taker of the selfie, to share it with them. To imagine the experience of something. Like this one by astronaut Aki Hoshide :
This selfie, I would say, veers into one of the many categories Saltz identified in his article, the category of “selfie thinking” that he describes only as, “It’s the invisible thought balloon over the subjects. ‘It is totally incomprehensible, even to us, to be us,’ they [selfies] are saying, ‘or to be us, being here.'” In this way, selfies become confirmations of the self and then confirmations of the experience as we bear witness to it. More, as you bear witness to it. Selfies are a documentation of the experience of yourself experiencing something. Selfies transcend questions of vanity and of narcissism when they are allowed to enter this realm.
In this way, selfies capture the experience of the self. More, they capture our experience of ourselves, new digital media allowing them to enter into dialogue with themselves and with the world without.
A Note on Personal Responsibility
All this said, that doesn’t mean the genre is without its faults. It’s new and burgeoning and exploratory and experimental which leaves it open to making a lot of mistakes.
Also, that selfie of the guy at Auschwitz is not a stand-out. In fact, it’s becoming a disturbing trend. While I’m not sure the rise of the selfie itself is solely to blame for this trend, I do agree that it’s facilitating this kind of disrespect and dissociation from reality, from the gravity of one’s actions that social media at large is taking heat for. As mentioned in the article, there’s this growing disaffection and, really, inability to appreciate moments themselves without commemorating them via digital means. Like, things don’t mater or can’t unless they’re shared and validated through that act of sharing. Again, I don’t think the selfie should be wholly held accountable for this. Remember, there is a person behind the selfie.
Anyway, selfies are my go-to photo. Over the years, I’ve taken more selfies than I care to admit. Before I had a smartphone, I was taking selfies with my digital camera and uploading them to my computer like a savage~
Now, all it takes is the right angle and a click.
That said, I’ve always found selfies to be introspective. Especially when you can view many of them in concert with each other, you hear a story. Or, they tell a story–the story of you. I can see how I’ve changed–or haven’t. I can look at myself from many angles~
I can see which parts of my story hit, too. For instance, this is the latest piece of my story:
I know what the caption beneath says but what does it tell you? Even without the caption, would you still get a sense of my message?
I may be biased but I think so.
There’s about that far-off look that’s almost contemplative, thoughtful. Though the camera is angled below me, my head is still tilted, to the side so that my hair angles downward. The camera may be pointed up but I’m being dragged down. There’s the straight line of my mouth. The glow of my painted face that is at odds with the flat look in my eyes. Then, of course, there’s all the deep, black Xs slashed around my head, creating a disconcerting halo that also conflicts with the overall glow of my face. Even without saying anything, I think it’s clear that I’m experiencing a conflict of emotions. Maybe I’m battling something? I think the question is there and that is the power of the selfie in action, the art of it. T
his selfie is the story of me in this moment, performed by me–maybe–but definitely lived by me. It is the embodiment of an experience. One that I wanted to share–not because I can’t appreciate what I feel and the moment I live in or because I need someone to validate it for it to be real but because I do appreciate my moments and believe there is something worthwhile in allowing them to be shared experiences. So many people are afraid to be vulnerable and I think the only way to overcome that is to show that everyone feels it.
Selfies are vulnerable.
They are our faces. What’s that expression, “save face”? Selfies literally do not allow you to spare any part of your face, let alone save it. It’s you, for all the world to see. It’s what you want to say about yourself for all the world to hear. That’s such a vulnerable position to put yourself in. I think we need to appreciate that more. We can by not dismissing selfies outright and reducing them to only one thing and instead by trying to listen and to read between the frames and to always understand there is a person behind at the heart of?every selfie~
*Missing a collection of pics of people taking selfies? Here you go. I didn’t cover it in my post but this a big thing people do now–take photos of people taking photos. I suppose some people think it’s meta. Others just like being assh*les–which is, granted, fun sometimes. Some might fancy they’re making social commentary. What’s your stance?
*Selfiecity is a project that’s investigating the selfies of 5 different cities, using a mix of theoretic, artistic, and quantitative methods. It seems like the project is interested in what implications of the selfie can be applied to a larger context, such as a city. It’s a very informative site and the essays seem well-researched and contrived. I wish I had more time to explore the site for my work but I highly recommend checking this site out!
But, what if those tuning in don’t care so much to hear you as they do to extract information about you and exploit it? (That took a dark turn, huh?)
Compare, Contrast, & Conflict
Do Not Track, a mini-documentary series/interactive digital project directed by Brett Gaylor, discusses the very real ways our internet meandering is not only tracked but compiled and used for economic gains–not our own, of course. I’m only one episode in so far but the tone is clearly different from that of a work like the Network Effect which is another interactive digital work that allows users to, I would argue, see just how much personal information is not only out there in the interweb miasma but also easily accessible to anyone and everyone. That isn’t to say the Network Effect is trying to do anything nefarious–in fact, it seems their purpose is rather the opposite–but Do Not Track is clearly trying to make a different point about the internet’s ability to not only observe our actions but collect and compile them to use for purposes we as users of digital spaces are not always aware of or able to control.
To be honest though, I found the contrast between the purposes of the two projects to be most interesting. Perhaps it is because I am a child of the digital age and can only remember a small window of time living without tech being an integral part of how I interact with the world, but the idea that I’m constantly being watched and tracked through my devices is not shocking nor does it make me afraid. If it were all more Orwellian in nature, then maybe. As it stands, I think Big Brother has a more invested interest in selling me out to Big Business for bigger bottom lines all around than it has a desire in anything more sinister. Yet, at least. Greed, especially of the corporate kind, disgusts me, but, again, it’s expected. Would I prefer not to see Amazon adds of things I was just perusing popping up on my social media feeds? Yes. Would I prefer Google not storing a story of me in their vaults? Yes. It’s disconcerting at least and paranoia-inducing at worst. It makes me wonder how else I’m being exploited without my consent. It makes me want to rip the power cells out of all my devices and sign off for good.
But, I can’t.
Again, this is the digital age. If you live in modern society with most of the rest of the world, you simply can’t disconnect. You wouldn’t be able to function in the world. Maybe I’m not so much anesthetized to being surveilled by microwaves even!as I am resigned to its being an inevitability of digital life. It’s the trade-off. (That continual debate of safety vs. freedom.)
That isn’t to say that some of this collective information or story can’t be used for good. The Network Effect is a primary example of how the internet’s ability to track people and their actions can be used to unify instead of to divide. I think now more than ever we all need to be reminded that, yes, while we may be unique individuals with unique stories, we also share a vast array of similar experiences that connect us. That can.
In a post I made a year ago on my first experience of the Network Effect, I focused on the action GRIEVE and on how the amount of people tweeting about grieving tended to pique at 7am & later at 7pm.
There’s something grounding and uniquely human about the timing. Or maybe it’s just the confirmation that we all experience loss and have so few words to capture it the 140 character rule never seems to be a problem~
First, this statistic made me wonder why. Because grief is most poignant upon first waking and then at dinner, a time typically spent with family or friends? Because first waking is the first moment a loss is remembered again? Because sitting at a table with an empty chair that wasn’t always empty is so unbearable it makes you want to scream into the void? Don’t I know it. None of the above? All this wondering (an act which I believe has merit inherent unto itself) led me to my second realization which is this: there are individuals that make up every bit of this data I’m viewing. More, this data isn’t just a static chart on a page. It’s video and tweets in live time. It isn’t just percentages–it’s story. It’s lives. Big Brother and Big Business may forget that but when it’s presented in such a way as it is through the Network Effect, I think that reality is undeniable and that is what makes this project powerful.
What’s Louder? Our Stories or Our Silence?
Ultimately, I feel conflicted about internet tracking/surveillance. While I agree with Do Not Track’s position that undisclosed or unwarranted tracking “dis-empowers” me and robs me of agency in that it makes choices for me about what content I’ll see on my internet journeys, I also believe or want to believe that there can be a benefit to having a digital collective or archive of the human experience like the Network Effect.
Not everyone who is tuning in to us is doing it with good intentions but I believe it is important and it is progress that we have a platform where we can all tune into each other.
“The people’s chant must be everything the people can’t be~”–I think the internet does a spectacular job of showing us all where we are as a people and how far we still have to go. It gives us a starting place, at the very least. It can. In recent years, yes, the internet and its many platforms have become weaponized and increasingly capitalized upon, creating horrible echo chambers in too many cases, but I think it’s important to remember all the possibility still inherent to the idea (think the Arab Spring or the Women’s Marches or the #MeToo movement which were all conceived of in internet spaces and then actualized). Allowing our stories to be digital can create stories that can exist beyond digital boundaries. And, to me, everything is story. It can be. In the digital age especially, there are so many opportunities to tell stories. We may not always be able to control who is listening to them or how they are received but I don’t think that should silence us. Should stop us from tuning in to each other. From trying to cut through the chaos and static.
*Twit 1 & Twit 2 (I meant to use only one this time around but I’ve already mixed it up Silly so here’s both~)
*If you’re interested in short stories based off of Twitter bot nonsense, I recommend checking out my Killing It tag. I’m toying with the idea of reviving it~
*I posted this vid by Al Jazeera in the #netnarr tag about media literacy in the wake of fake news’ popularity on Twitter and then it was retweeted with the #netnarrlinks tag (for anyone who also wants to share cool content on Twitter).
*For anyone who was disappointed by season 4 of Black Mirror, I highly recommend checking out Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. It’s an Amazon original series based off of works by Philip K. Dick (the title of the show is a play on the title of one of his more famous works Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which is a classical dystopian I actually enjoy ^.^). and it’s free if you have prime. Like Black Mirror, it’s an anthology series that bridges sci-fi and the psychological through explorations of the intersection of life and tech.
*See The Post if you haven’t already! It is phenomenal and relevant to current events >.>
***I didn’t think about it till after but the Soundcloud link I shared to a Chance the Rapper song is oddly appropriate in that Chance is an artist without a label who rose to popularity and eventually mainstream prominence through the internet and digital media. People shared and promoted his music online and through apps like Spotify. Would definitely recommend checking him out if you’re looking for some good music. He’s more poet than rapper to me in some ways.
And that’s a rap.
Till next time~
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s 2017 Electronic Literature course.