(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 talked about redlining–basically denying services either directly or indirectly to residents in certain areas of a city or town based upon the ethnic makeup of the residents. More specifically, we talked about the idea of digital redlining and how online algorithms can play a part in the contemporary implementation of redlining practices.
In order to learn more about digital redlining and how it works, we watched a fascinating talk led by Chris Gilliard:
Aside from this talk, Chris also contributed to this article about how digital redlining operates at the university level. Essentially, the appropriate use policies (AUPs) can become knowledge-blocks for many students at community institutions. Being that community colleges are typically populated by working-class individuals, many of whom come from a more ethnically diverse background, this problem becomes one of digital redlining.
Because online spaces are where an increasing number of people primarily get their information from, restrictions such as these become not just issues of inequality and accessibility but of ethics as well. If the flow of information is restricted, then people simply cannot make informed decisions about things that can greatly affect the quality of their lives. More, by restricting access of certain knowledge, power is given to those who are not restricted. A game in which certain players are given all the knowledge and all the power while others are left totally unawares is not much of a game. At least, it’s not a very fun game, to say the least.
What I find particularly awful about the whole issue is that those who are being most affected by digital redlining are the ones who would have no idea, who are not informed and have no means of becoming informed. That is the game. This is especially sickening considering how often technology and the Internet are lauded as being “great equalizers”. The truth that so few have access those is that both could not be any farther from. You might even consider digital redlining the 2.0 version of the original–now new and improved.
Painting Newark, NJ Red
In order to learn just how close to home the issue of redlining is, this week in class we investigated possible instances of it occurring in nearby Newark, NJ. The activity asked us first to review this map charting inequality in the city and then to choose from a variety of other services to see if the locations of those services were possibly affected by the inequality of wealth revealed in the initial map.
In researching whether or not a kind of redlining is still present in Essex County, specifically in Newark, NJ, I noticed a possible correlation between LPR camera locations and the location of Newark’s poorer areas.
According to the LPR map, there is a cluster of LPR cameras located in the center of Newark, sandwiched between 2 areas (Third Ward and the Ironbound) identified by the inequality tracking map as “hazardous” zones. Now, this cluster could be related to the close proximity of Newark Penn Station–a major travel hub–but upon inspection of other large, travel hubs in the area, like the nearby Paterson rail station, that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, there’s only 1 LPR location remotely near the Paterson rail station compared to the 5 LPR locations within a few blocks of each other near Newark Penn Station.
So, perhaps the cluster of LPR locations in Newark relates more to the “hazardous” designation of the overall area? What do you think?
Personally, I was quite surprised to notice a possible correlation even though I, myself, having grown up nearby, know there areas of Newark I want to avoid, especially at certain times. Driving into Newark this weekend, actually, for a concert, I found myself thinking more deeply about the issue of potholes on 21–the main drag through the city. 21 stretches across Essex county and into Bergen county–where I now reside. There is a clear distinction between the amount of potholes encountered, though, between the two counties. More specifically, between the city limits of Newark and the surrounding areas. Seems potholes on 21 are more worth filling outside of the city >.>
Returning to Sound
In contrast to the rather depressing topic of redlining and its digital counterpart, this week also had us finishing up our work on interacting with empathy games. (I think an empathy game about digital redlining could be pretty good, yeah?)
Anyway, this other activity had us recording questions about empathy games designed by students in Prof. Maha Bali’s class in Cairo, Egypt. Prof. Bali’s students would then record and upload their responses to the shared padlet. Once all the audio components were available, we had to download them and use them to create a new, cohesive whole–an “interview” of sorts in Audacity.
Now, I don’t really like working with audio myself but I think my project turned out pretty well. There are some rough patches in it and, of course, there’s how awful I think I sound recorded but, other than those *minor* issues, I am pleasantly surprised with how my interview turned out. But, don’t take my word for it.
Have a listen yourself:
Mainly, I think my intonation is off in some places and conflicts with prior recordings which makes it obvious that this was not recorded all at once. Also, for some reason, I think I sound more condescending in places where I didn’t intend to and I don’t know why???? Audio is weird.
But, again, what do you think?
I was going for this being like a podcast of sorts–hence the jazzy intro and outro~ Does that vibe come through or nah? What’s your impression of this work?
Anyway, this week we covered an almost confusing number of different subjects. So, please bear with me as I try to get wandering, wondering thoughts together ^.^
Empathy or Lack Thereof
One of this week’s topics was that of “empathy games”. According to this article by Eric Bartelson, empathy games are ones that confront players with “real human issues…things like depression, bullying, terminal illness, or suicide”. Through playing these games and “experiencing” these issues “first-hand”, players, ideally, develop a more complex understanding of the issue and so are able thereto forth to empathize better with people going though similar issues IRL.
At least, that’s theory.
Many game designers themselves are skeptical/critical of the idea that empathy can be developed to such an extent via game-play. More, many game designers seem that empathy is a skill every game should be striving to develop and so labeling any specific set of games as “empathy games” is redundant. In this way, and as Bartelson states, the divide seems to be over whether or not empathy is “a genre or a game mechanic”. Which, to me, is an interesting division and, to be honest, since I’m not someone who plays very many games, I’m not sure what side of the divide I fall on.
Certainly, I believe that a game alone cannot develop or refine one’s own empathy. That’s the reverse of the “video games incite violence” argument–spoiler they don’t and a government bogging down discussions about any particular reforms to even entertain the notion is grossly irresponsible and tbfh stalling but I digress…>.>. Like I mentioned in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night, you can have the best message in the world in your game but if players can’t connect that message to something on the outside, if there’s no transfer then I’m not sure how it helps facilitate genuine empathy.
Exactly. Design might not be able to account for all variables but it can be selective so that they create a clear message to be learned #NetNarr
My line of thinking seems to fall in line with Simon Parkin’s thoughts in this article in which the disconnect between creator intent and game design is discussed. Basically, Parkin reiterates what I just said: a game with a good idea but a bad follow-through is kind of a problem. More, that equation can create a problem. Parkin references a study in which the game Spent–an online game about surviving poverty–and its effects are researched. What the study found was that it actually made people, even those who sympathized with the poor prior to playing the game, empathize less with poor people. Essentially, the game made people believe poof people had more choices than they actually do in reality. Colleen Macklin, a game designer cited in this article, summarizes the phenomenon, “In a game you have complete agency, but in some life situations, people have no choice. If a game is trying to create empathy in this way, it can back-fire spectacularly.”
When creating a game you hope will instill a deeper sense of empathy, intent doesn’t seem to be enough. More, you have to be careful you’re not “game-ifying” a real situation too much or else you may alter the reality of it and so muddle/not accurately portray your message.
That said, a game I think “game-ified” an IRL situation just right is Bad News. I freakin’ loved this game.
In Bad News, players become the propagators and perpetuators of “fake news” online. “Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate” the game encourages. The goal of this game is to gain as main “followers” as you can through establishing fake credibility online (mostly via Twitter). The other goal, in my opinion, is to be as obnoxious as you possibly can i.e channel Trump >.>...
I had a blast:
I’ll admit, at first I was trying to be a good person and pick the “ethical” choices but once I realized that was losing me followers (and not the object of the game) I just went full on obnoxious. Spread an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory??? Sure. Smear a legit news agency cause they had the audacity to report on something bad I actually did??? Why the hell not??
What can I say?
I got into it.
Anyway, fun aside, I do think this game illustrates the point it’s trying to make pretty clearly. Though, if you don’t have the cultural context–say you live in a 1-party state or your country doesn’t have access to much technology or internet–I don’t know how well the message would stick because it’s social commentary, in a way, right? I get that this game is trying to make a point of how fake news is made and propagated but I also think it’s trying to show just how easy it is to slip into that mindset/head-space where you’re more interested in sensationalizing issues, “making headlines”, and in gaining followers than in making ethical or responsible decisions. Even if that wasn’t an objective by design, this game did a damn fine job of bringing it to attention.
But, what do you think? More, after playing a so-called “empathy game”, how do you feel?
Amping Things Up
Switching gears this week, we also began discussing sound as a means for storytelling.
Now, I have to admit I’m not super enthused for this shift in focus. Sound is not really my medium. Don’t get me wrong, I love my podcasts–listening to them while I’m doing my make-up in the morning–and I’d probably kill someone if I couldn’t listen to my music in the car but I’m not really into or interested in playing around with sound myself. The thought just doesn’t inspire the same excitement as talking about art or Elit.
That said, I’m open to learning more about how to use sound to tell a good story. I’m so used to it being background noise, I think it’ll be cool to explore it as its own kind of art and story.
For this week’s Make, I did attempt to explore sound as a means for telling a story. Check it:
It’s not my best work but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I’m a lot more rusty with Audacity than I thought I’d be but this video helped me out a lot. (I also totally forgot how to upload from Audacity to Soundcloud.)
Anyway, technical issues aside, the idea behind my little story here was inspired by the incessant clacking of my own keyboard. Once I decided I wanted that to be my background sound, I was able to establish the rest of the story.
I added some notes in the margins once I found the sounds I wanted on freesound~
Really, my story is just a snippet of what it’s like to live online–closing yourself away to open up elsewhere, the incessant typing that gets increasing more frustrated as your message notifications keeps pinging, and the frustrated sigh that another annoying ping swallows up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the life digital means affords me but it can be freakin’ annoying sometimes~
*I love this throwback DDA ^.^ The book spine poetry was one of my face DDAs from the first time around. I enjoy combining my love of books with my burgeoning love of new new digital media. This DDA also gets me to “remix” real life, removing the context from my books and placing them in a new one. I love it~
*As for this DDA, I decided to take a close-up shot of my fave pinky highlighter (J. Cat Beauty’s You Glow Girl highlighter in the shade Bella Rose for any fellow make-up junkies ^.^). It looks like a cotton-candy floss universe, doesn’t it?
*I chose to look at the game our friends in Egypt, Ayah and Manar, are currently in the process of developing. Their game is designed to teach/inform players about illiteracy and how it affects the everyday lives of people and the choices they are able to make. Ayah and Manar talk about their game here and have a prototype you can play here. So far, I really like the project and thinks it’s shaping up to be a real learning tool. I talk more about what I think is effective so far in my comments on the posts so I highly recommend you check those out and, of course, the good work Ayah and Manar are doing!!
Tbh, I’m going to miss our discussions on digital art~
The Gif that Just Keeps on Giving
Before I get into my reflection on digital art, I want to talk about our last hurrah for the Make Bank.
This week, we used what we learned from last week’s experimentation with Giphy to make two different kinds of gifs which I pronounce with a soft g like in graphic image format fight me.
The first make asked us to gif a process. Of course, I chose to make a gif illustrating one of the many metalworking processes familiar to me. (For anyone who’s come to know me, I doubt that’s shocking~)
Anyway, here’s my gif-take on soldering:
***Please do not attempt at home or in any other place not properly ventilated***
So, soldering is the process by which pieces/sheets of metal can be joined. In order to solder, you must first have *drum roll* solder (of which there are 3 kinds–hard, medium, & soft). Typically, start with hard solder and work your way down (the designations don’t refer to the composition or sturdiness of the solder but the temperature at which it melts, hard solder taking the longest to melt and soft the least; so, you want to start with hard solder and work your way down because you don’t want your solder to re-melt and flow every time you attach a new piece of metal to your project–it’d be constantly falling apart, yeah?) Anyway, my gif starts with me placing my chips of hard solder down (technically I should have sweat soldered this but tbh I couldn’t be bothered~)
From there, I torch the piece (soldering temperature is around 850 degrees Fahrenheit). Then, once you see the solder flow and melt, you have to quick quench the piece in water and then in the Pickle–which is a cleaning solution. Metal gets very dirty once heated–it’s a chemical reaction. After letting your piece sit in the Pickle for a few minutes, you can take it out–with copper (absolutely no steel in the Pickle) tongs!!! Don’t touch a piece of metal with Pickle on it!! It can cause your skin to peel–and run it under some water and clean it with a brass-bristled brush.
Ta-dah~ My last image shows a (relatively) cleaned and soldered piece.
I found this activity to be rather fun and engaging, kind of like the Most Fascinating Subject in The World make. Perhaps that’s because both projects ask us to remix and create digital work (memes and gifs) of subject matter from our own lives. To me, projects like these illustrate how memes and gifs, while ubiquitous and rather universal, start off in the personal and individual. It takes one person to notice something or tilt their perspective just so to create them. More, these projects provide opportunities for participation in remix culture in ways we can relate to on a personal level. I mean, we’re remixing parts of our lives, right? Adjusting the lights and the angles and making magic~
I’ve noticed that a lot of our discussion in class and in our blog posts has revolved around whether or not digital art is “Art.” Pointless conversation to tbh but I digress~ So, I made a gif to represent my feelings on the matter–Art is what you make of it. It’s what I make of it. It’s what we make of it. Just the ideal that real art has to be on a pedestal and labelled probably has every artist from Van Gogh to Duchamp to Rauschenberg to Roth and then some rolling in their graves.
Honestly, get out of here with that elitist nonsense. Art is what you make of it but it’s also historically been about challenging preconceived notion and the status quo and about calling bullsh*t on bullsh*t. If selfies, memes, and, of course, gifs aren’t doing at least one of those things, then idk what is???
In my first post exploring digital art, I compared it to a kind of neo-Dadaism, calling it Degenerate Art 2.0. In the rise of this new medium, I see traces of a desire to respond to the growing absurdity of the world and the action’s of world leaders >.> with absurdity and nonsense which is something Dada itself sought to do. In many ways, Dada the 1st was a response to the absurdity of WWI, to all of these countries typically regarded as pinnacles of culture and of society fighting over 50 feet of mud. How do you create art after that? Dada showed us how.
From there, I explored the place of the selfie in digital art. In my post breaking down the history of the selfie, I talk about whether or not the selfie even constitutes as work of art. Survey said: not only yes, but that it constitutes a whole new genre of art. For the first time in a long while, new digital media has lowered the boundary for entry into the art sphere as well as created a whole new genre for it. The selfie is the art of the people, created for us by us. More, it has created a whole new kind of communication between us as well as a new way to be introspective. For those of you who have reservations about that claim, I highly suggest you check out my post on the matter as well as check out the Selfie section of the Digital Art Referencium~
If you still have doubts, I suggest you explore the #SelfieUnselfie make. To me, this is one of the most meaningful projects I’ve participated in. I explain why in more detail in my post reflecting specifically on the project but, in short, I think this project captures the essence of what selfies could be while also emphasizing their limitations. If there’s one thing our segment on Digital Life revealed, it’s that’s it is very easy to get caught up in the innovation and the glitz and the glamour of new online spaces and forget that we’re all still people behind our screens with insecurities and agendas and flaws and faults and so many other aspects of ourselves that would look damning under a microscope. More, there are parts of ourselves to appreciate and that can be appreciated without the easy outside validation digital platforms can so easily provide. The internet allows us to be so much more than ourselves but that doesn’t mean who we are offline matters any less.
After discussing the seflie, came good ol’ memes and gifs or, as I like to refer to them, the sprinkles of the internet~
I discuss my thoughts more in depth about memes in this post and about gifs in this post but ultimately I believe that gifs and memes truly embody that neo-Dada essence I mentioned earlier. They tap into that seemingly universal acknowledgement that the world is a pretty absurd place and turn it into art. And though many corporations are beginning to use memes and gifs for advertising purposes (as mentioned by Amy whose style I love and Michael in our studio visit this week), they are fairly democratic medium, another form of art that is made by the people for the people. A culture of remix and reciprocity has really risen up around these mediums as well, memeing the meme a fun make but also popular practice these days.
Tide Pods, anyone??? Stranger things, huh??
Overall, I find digital art to be an emergent and exploratory new medium for creation and reimagining and remixing. There has been and will continue to be a lot of trial and error but I think it is coming into it’s own. I mean, look at how many gif artists there are now? You or I could be the next big thing~
*For those who don’t know, I also write poetry. This semester, I’m actually taking a course on poetry. In this image, you can see some of the poems I’m working on for my collection. For me, every poem is both a beginning and an ending–I live my poem, yes, but it’s also where my feelings end up. More than that, though, poetry is what life sounds like, yeah?
*So… dis my cat~ Her name’s Dove and she’s kind of dopey and likes to chew on plastic. #imhallingherout #sorrynotsorry (On a serious note, what’s Felix got against cats????!! Lol for real this time, I took a photo of Dove with my phone, uploaded it to my computer, and then edited it in Paint, of all things. It wasn’t very difficult at all. The shapes are pre-made and the text is easy to overlay. 10/10 would recommend~)
*I made a thing! For anyone who doesn’t know, the open participants of NetNarr have started a project we are all welcome to participate in as well. It’s a great opportunity to practice some digital alchemy~ I remixed an old story of dark, ravenous magic. Hope you enjoy ^.^
*CrashCourse on Youtube (an educational channel run in large part by John and Hank Green) has just started a new course on Media Literacy. I think it’s pretty relevant to our course and worth a watch. Maybe an episode or two will be good to watch for class?
*Artsy Gifs is really cool to follow on Twitter. They share art-inspired gifs that I think are beautiful editions to any feed~
*I’ve almost finished reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read. I highly recommend you check out this book. It’s so relevant to the reality of racism and police brutality in America right now and it’s told through the lens of a 16-year-old, Black girl. These kinds of books that explore this kind of subject matter areso important.
Despite this week’s many technical difficulties on campus, this is not what actually happened though I thought about it…. Myself along with the rest of the goody-2-shoes class that showed up this week did stay for a crash course in gifs and their creation~
The Gif of Gifs
(Okay, I’m done)
This week we explored the animated gif. Though we didn’t spend much time discussing the creative form in the classroom, we did watch a short clip of a movie that is entirely made of gifs(?) It was pretty trippy to watch. Marissa and I likened the experience of watching the video to that of having a fever dream or going on a bad acid trip. Check it out:
(How long did it take you to realize the start of the vid was a montage of loading screens/ modules???)
Many of the gif forms shown are definitely unfamiliar to me and, I think, not as popular online. According to this article though, many of the animations popularity attributed as gifs are not actually gifs. They’re short video clips played on a loop which is, come to find, out, not what a gif is. Mind-blowing, right? I don’t want to butcher the actual def of a gif so I highly recommend checking out the article linked on it~
Anyway, aside from that fever dream of an induction to gifs, we checked out The Digital Materiality of Gifs–prepare for a MySpace flashback. If the Popular Mechanics article on the history of gifs gets too overwhelming and techy, I think this project does a fairly well job of explaining the history of the gif in laymen’s terms.
What I find most meaningful about the project’s breakdown is it’s final thought: “Gifs are a dumb, limited file format, and in the end this why they are important: They do not belong to anyone. Because of their constraints, they become a design material, to be played with, challenged, and explored. To try and domesticate them would be missing the point.” This, I believe, articulates the idea that gifs (along with memes and other new digital media created for and in online spaces) are the people’s art, their creation and burgeoning language. When you try to commercialize the medium and remove it from that kind of freedom and remix-ability, you remove the essence of the medium that allows it to function and to have power, to have agency.
Essentially, part of the gif’s power is that anyone can make one and use one. When you begin to chip away at that, you chip away at the ideology, at least, that makes a gif a gif.
Same as for memes, it’s difficult for me to imagine the internet without gifs. More, without the free and ubiquitous use of gifs. I may not understand every iteration or evolution of the form but I still believe their home is online and freely accessible. Like I said, gifs are a new facet of our language. They are tools for communication and they, in many cases, allow for smoother communication than could occur without them. Like memes, they are complex cultural and social messages in compact form. They streamline communication, especially in online spaces where space can be at a premium (think Twitter’s character limit >.>).
What do you think the internet and communicating online would be like without the gif?
Making & Wrapping Those Gifs
(I lied ^.^)
In addition to discussing the gif and its function, particularly in online spaces, this week, we were also tasked with creating and exploring the power of the form for ourselves. In the Make Bank, we had two activities we could do to practice our prowess at creating gifs. Both activities asked us to familiarize ourselves with Giphy. (An old friend of mine~) For those of you who don’t know, Giphy is a simple and easy way to create gifs from snippets of video or whatnot which are apparently not technically gifs but whatver.
Anyway, the first activity allowed us to practice making both a gif with text overlaid and a gif without text by providing a short clip from a western film and asking us what verbal and non-verbal message we could communicate by giffing it.
Here’s what I came up with:
My first gif is meant to be a reaction to the situation captioned. Meaning, when the wifi is down, I’m out–a sentiment I imagine many of agree with. If there’ not wifi, don’t invite me, right??? What am I supposed to do??? Talk to other people and not play on my phone???
(This gif was inspired by the aforementioned technical difficulties occurring on campus this week. First, there was no wifi and then the power went out on half of campus *sigh* I felt like I was living in a commune >.>)
My second gif connects to my first gif. The first guy is the one who left when the wifi first went down and the guy gaining on him is joining him on his search for wifi. Though, I imagine this gif could be used as a reaction to any initial action that spurs a second agreeable action.
The second activity this week asked us to gif our own content. The only catch was that we had to find a way to make it relate to a topic we’ve discussed thus far about digital life and digital art. Not too much of a catch.
I definitely had some fun with this one
Big Brother’s got to know my angles, right???
My gif here plays off the idea that out online activity is always being monitored. Specifically, I’m referencing the ongoing joke online (since the Snowden thing???) that not only are all American citizens being constantly monitored, but they have an NSA/FBI agent assigned to watch them. (Few cultural/social levels you’re going to need for context, huh?)
I used a clip from the mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (which is great if you haven’t seen it yourself~ Amazon Prime recently added it I think?) in which one of the human characters is trying to teach 3 ancient vampires how to use modern tech and social media. Thought it was pretty relevant~
(I was also kind of inspired, aesthetically and stylistically, by a digital gif artist mentioned in this Buzzfeed article–Dain Fagerholm. He combines his ink drawings with the digital medium, creating these really trippy works. Here’s one:
As for my other gif, I continued to play off the idea of the selfie.
This time, I used another clip (titled “Dead but Delicious”–please check it out) from the same mockumentary to create a gif that somewhat shows the history/evolution of the selfie??? In a way, I also think it shows how much work our phones actually save us from having to do. (Of course, since the main characters are vampires, they don’t have reflections so this is their only option…. till they find out about contemporary tech and have a field day~)
Overall, I think gifs, like memes, are the sprinkles of the internet. They don’t always need to be there but they certainly add colour and vibrancy and life when they are.
More, I think that gifs are fast becoming a means of communication. They aren’t just accessories anymore. They convey meaning and can be used as reactions to situations which can streamline communication for all familiar or fluent in the gifs being used.
*Clash allows you to input a phrase and then it finds the words it can in different songs and plays you back your phrase with the snippets of song it found–which is really f*cking cool, in my opinion. I’ve never heard of something like this before and I think it would be really interesting to find out how to do something like this. (I might actually enjoy this kind of audio work ha-ha)
I’ve already said much about selfies myself but I was interested to hear what my peers had to say about the emerging genre of digital art & creation. More, I was interested in what people thought of the idea of selfies being a form of communication.
To many, that seemed readily apparent.
Selfies contain messages. They are messages.
A2: I definitely agree with this. I don’t think people really take pictures as much for memory, as they do to send a message. #netnarr
Can selfies be keepsakes? Or, must they always be public in order to have a dialogue? Does the selfie’s communication matter as much when it’s only communicating with you? In my opinion, that kind of communication is the most important and speaks to that level of self-reflection Jerry Saltz seemed to be getting at in his article on the art history of the selfie.
Still, what was perhaps of even more interest than all of this was some comments made earlier on about the “illusion” of life selfies seem to reference or comment on:
Big question. Don’t we somewhat always put on some kind of face in public, not always what we are feeling? #netnarr
#netnarr A2 (contd) The proliferation of selfies could also be a sign that we have become so bored or disillusioned with the world that we feel the need to insert our own image into things as an attempt to assert that the world still means something, and we still have a say in it
When viewed in this light, selfies become ways to alter the perception of the self but also the perception of the world. More, they becomes a means to take back some control and also assert control. This, to me, speaks to the empowering nature of the selfie (something I discuss more in-depth in my prior post). Selfies and the acts of taking them are not just some new digital extensions of vanity. Dismissing them as such not only mis-characterizes them but ignores so much potential, so much information about what it is and means to be human.
Selfies are becoming the language of us. I mean, we’re using ourselves to convey the experience of life. Our experiences are in dialogue with each other with the advent of the selfies in ways they never were before.
That matters. That shouldn’t be dismissed.
Do You Look at Me Different Now? #SelfieUnselfie
The other idea I’ve been totally captured by this week is that of the unselfie. Perhaps the concept has been peddled before but, in light of my own findings on the subject of the selfie as of late, it’s such an arresting idea. It makes me pause, stop and think about not just how I present myself to the world but how I don’t.
Again, as I mentioned in my previous post on selfies, I believe selfies are not only a burgeoning language but a very vulnerable one. I mean, we’re putting our faces out there for people to interact with, yes, but also for them (our messages, too) to be critiqued. It’s an incredibly vulnerable thing to do, an aspect of the selfie I don’t believe is always appreciated.
Anyway, that said, are selfies really all that vulnerable when they are rather staged and selective? Would a picture of some other part of our lives–excluding our faces–convey the same messages abut us that our selfies do? Is that important?
The #SelfieUnselfie Project seeks to explore those very questions:
To be honest, for all my selfies I’ve taken over the years, I found this project difficult. I looked around the spaces I typically occupy–searching for myself–and wondered if I was anywhere to be found?
Then, I realized I was looking for the girl in my selfies. Not me. Not the person behind the selfie.
Don’t get me wrong–sometimes those two people meet in one. But, oft, they live separate lives. Similar, yes. But separate till they merge in the moment of the selfie. Till the experience and the act of the selfie synthesize them. (Does that make sense? Or, does anyone else feel that way? It’s not that my selfies aren’t me or aren’t truthful depictions of me but, well, the truth is more of spectrum.)
Anyway, what I kept returning to was the bedside table. My bedside table. Dr. Zamora mentioned possibly sharing her bedside table as her unselfie and I was and still am taken with that idea. On my bedside table are the items I obviously want closest to me when I first wake up and, again, when I finally lay my head down. To me, those items embodied, well, me. They’re the most integral parts of me not physically a part of me.
(I shared my #selfieunselfie post on Instagram but wasn’t able to fit everything I had to say about the topic there but it’s all here~)
I post many pictures of myself online and in digital spaces. This selfie is typical of the ones I usually share (in fact, I did post it here on the gram a few months back~). Face larger than life. Skin smooth like porcelain and glowing as if from within. Hint of pink. A light burning low in the background. Not a shiny hair out of place. My eyes staring at you but not–not really. They look through. They look more glass-like. More doll-like.
I look like a doll. Painted smile and all.
Always pretty. Always happy.
What you don’t see in any of the pictures I post are the dark circles from too many sleepless nights. You don’t see the anxiety usually alight in my eyes during the day. Don’t see the clock I always feel ticking away, just behind it all.
You can’t see my bedside table or you’d know me.
On my bedside table, you can see I keep a bottle of melatonin, a half-empty bottle of NyQuil, and an essential oil to induce sleep–my oil diffuser (glowing my favorite purple) just behind my shrine of offerings to sleep. On the wall behind, you can see the shadow of the dreamcatcher that hangs from my bedpost, its black feathers just in frame. Anything worth a shot and if good dreams come too, all the better~
Sleep has always been a problem for me, something I dread even during the day (if you have trouble sleeping, you get the stress). I never know if I’ll get to sleep that night. When paired with my anxiety about time and never having enough–for what? I don’t know–I think it’s easier to understand the other keepsakes. Along with my sleep aids, I have a ball of sticky tack, a fidget cube, and another stress-reliever shaped like a little white kitten to squish. Small stimulants and sensation-inducing toys to preoccupy my senses from otherwise overwhelming me. I’ll even worry the little, purple stone heart beside my clock–though it’s actually a gift from someone I love dearly and can’t be with the way I’d like right now. So, it’s more of a small piece of them to keep close to me.
Anyway, there’s a lot of my anxieties laid bare on my bedside table that you would never see reflected in my usual selfies. If you’re into close readings, you can even see hints of my forgetfulness (perhaps addled by lack of sleep >.>)–a pair of earrings, my bottom ones things I always forget to take out before I go to bed, and my birth control, just peeking out from behind my shrine of sleep aids, close on-hand so I don’t forget.
Selfies don’t usually share these parts of ourselves, despite them being integral to ourselves. (If my melatonin weren’t right there tonight, I’d be at a loss, you know?) Though, I’m not sure if it’s strictly because we want to hide these things from other people. I mean, I’m not ashamed of any of the items I keep on my bedside table. Nor, am I ashamed of my usual selfies. One’s just easier, maybe, to share? There are less questions to answer–if anyone even cares to ask any. Maybe one is more difficult to share, though, because it asks people to care more deeply and that’s not always an easy request to make or meet.
What do you think?
Can you see me in both images? More, do you see me differently now that you’ve seen the other?
(Want to find out more about the #SelfieUnselfie project and installation or find out how to post and share one of your own? Check out the Make Bank on the project.)
Unreflections on Unreflections
When I compare my selfie to my unselfie, I find myself looking for connections more than what disconnects one from the other. Like, I know both have hearts which were both gifts from people I love and miss dearly. (The heart necklace I’m wearing in the selfie was a gift from a therapist whose help and kindness really touched me and have made all the difference so many years later.)
I don’t believe the purpose of this project is to separate us from ourselves so much as unite us. Provide a clearer picture. Emphasize that no sum of parts is greater than the whole they create. Different but not so much as they seem~
But enough about me. Let me tell you, this selfie unit has made me tired of me lol
When you see your selfie and your unselfie beside each other, what do you find? What do you see? Are you really as different from yourself as you think?
*For #DDA156 (one I submitted), I chose to share a poem from a mentor book I’ve been reading for my advanced poetry writing course this semester. The book is Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim and I’ve recommended in on my blog before, in the Goodies section. I think the poem relates well to the subject of the #selfieunselfie. At least, it captures the idea of duality and of reconciling with our own duality in order to “let the light shine through”, if you will.
*Another DDA I complete this week involves me writing another short story to add to my unsettling Killing It Tag. If you like spooky or disturbing little story inspired by bot nonsense, I highly recommend checking it out ^.^ Also, this week’s story has to do with sight and vision which is also related to the selfie. Go figure~
Unsettling tales straight out of my head to yours~
(*This is an acrylic cut-out that is a part of a project I am working on it metals that you will hopefully get to see soon btw~)
*Cool and informative article on memes and their connection to Neo-Dadaism, for anyone interested on the topic like me. (Thanks @rissacandiloro)
*A series I’ve been reading that I’ve really been enjoying is V.E. Schwab’sShades of Magicseries. It’s her first adult fiction series and it’s excellent. It’s all about magic and travelling between worlds, finding the one that you fit into. The characters are distinct and enjoyable–both to root for and to hate. My favourite character is Holland, in case anyone wants to know~ (He’s kind of awful but I love him <3)
*Has anyone watched Altered Carbon on Netflix yet? I hear it’s good but I’d love a recommendation~
*Also, if you aren’t planning to see or if you haven’t watched Black Panther yet, why not? It was a great movie with some very compelling characters and I highly recommend seeing it if you haven’t yet. For anyone who’s hesitant or skeptical because of the hype, I want you to know I was too but the hype was real~ (Don’t let that sway you from checking out the flick)
Tbh, I kind of never want to hear the word “meme” again.
In class this week, we explored the fascinating world of meme-making and meme-meaning-making(?)~ In order to accomplish that, we had to descend into the depths of those dank memes I hate myself.We got our hands dirty making our own memes.
The Make Bank gave our creative selves some direction, though. More, it provided some purpose to why we were exploring memes as well as some ideas about how memes can communicate more than just a silly joke or a cultural phenomena.
For example, the first activity asked us to not only “meme the meme” but find out where it came from. I made 2 though I really only discovered the background on one of my memes.
The first meme I made is the featured image on my post. Most of may know him as the screaming ART guy (he made an appearance as the featured image on my last post on digital art). I was not able to find him in the Know Your Meme database but I was able to find out through the Iron Giant Wiki the character is from the movie The Iron Giant and his name is Dean McCoppin. He is a beatnik and a scrap artist who helps the main character of the movie, Hogarth, with the Iron Giant. (I’m adding the movie to my too-watch list so I can discover the context for myself~)
My second meme is perhaps more in line with what the activity was asking of us:
This meme is called “This Is Where I’d Put My Trophy, If I Had One” and has its origins in the Fairly Oddparents animated cartoon series. According to Know Your Meme, the titular phrase that inspires this meme comes from an episode titled “Father Time.” Here’s a clip of the scene:
The phrase is said by the father of Timmy Turner, the series main character. In the episode, Timmy travels to an alternate timeline where he meets his father, who is the dictator of the world but never won the prized childhood marathon trophy that the father in Timmy’s timeline did. Thus, the meme is used to convey anger that the user is without something they want.
The second activity had us meme a hobby or interest of our own. Which, I think is a creative idea. I’ve never heard of it before and I don’t think the genre is a big one if it exists on the world wide web. That may be because the memes are more personal and it’s usually memes that resonate more universally with people (like the Tide Pods meme) that spread and get remixed and re-memed.
Anyway, I chose to meme something near and dear to my heart:
I found the photo on one of the free image-sharing sites recommended and memed it. Again, because it’s specific, I’m not sure if anyone else gets it or finds it remotely funny but I guarantee if I shared with some friends from the studio or if I printed it out and hung it up in the Metals studio on campus, I’d get some chuckles.
What do you think? Are personal memes just that–personal? For those of you who don’t bang on metal in their free time, has this meme conveyed anything to you about the jewelry-making process? Let me know~
As for the final activity, we memed an episode of Black Mirror–“Nosedive“. For anyone who doesn’t know what Black Mirror is, it’s a anthology TV series available on Netflix. Each episode essentially explores the extremes of advancing technology, the results of which are usually awful, unsettling, disturbing, or some combination of the three. In “Nosedive”, as put in this article about the episode, the question, “What if phones but too much?” is explored. More, what if social media controlled every aspect of your life from your social life to your job to your housing to your access to basic amenities and services. It’s wild, to say the least. A nightmare, to say the most.
Anyway, we got some great memes out of this episode. Like this one:
I watched over the creator’s shoulder >.> as they made it and I got to say, I’m kind of jealous I didn’t come up with it~ The one I did come up with is “Nosedive” specific but I could see it being applied outside of that context. (It’s a smidge X-rated too….)
In my meme, I’m referencing a scene from the episode where Lacie Pound (the main character) gets into a bit of a disagreement with a flight concierge. I believe Lacie missed her flight and because her rating wasn’t high enough, she couldn’t be bumped up to priority for the next flight or something(?) Anyway, Lacie tried to keep her cool but failed spectacularly when she finally snapped and asked the concierge is she could just, “f*cking help her!” Seemed very meme-able to be. Also relatable like who hasn’t wanted to curse out a customer service rep??? Even though it’s not their fault. It’s the impulse. And the frustration.
I used the ever-popular “Evil Kermit” meme~ Essentially, sith Kermit represents your inner or intrusive thoughts that typically suggest you do something you know you shouldn’t but wish you could.
So, I guess a big question that came up, in regards to both memes and “Nosedive”, is, “What is this all about???” What kind of message is being conveyed?
In “Nosedive”, I think a warning about the pervasiveness not just of social media but of its increasing usage as a place of self-validation is being presented. While it seems unrealistic at the time of this post that all social media applications will consolidate into one conglomerate, it is not unrealistic that the evaluative systems they use (i.e likes, or ups, or <3s) could be used to affect other things our lives. In some ways, this already happens. As Patrice mentioned in class on Tuesday, credit scores already affect large aspects of one’s life and one’s access–and those scores are readily available to anyone who wants to view them.
To be honest, I’m only vaguely concerned about anything close to what occurred in Black Mirror really happening but I did find the premise of this episode to be unsettling in that “too close to home” way. I worry all the time that people are becoming increasingly unable to properly appreciate moments in their lives. Like, nothing means anything unless it’s posted online and validated by other people with likes or what the f*ck ever that yes, it means something. That really does worry me. It seems like we’re getting closer and closer to performing our lives instead of living them. I love so many aspects of social media and of digital spaces and digital media but I’m also very concerned and scared about many aspects too. Some people simply can’t seem to handle it and it’s always those people who are setting examples. I hope a shift in how we use social media or in how we navigate digital spaces occurs soon. With education on the topic finally entering academic spaces, I hope that shift will occur soon.
As for the meaning behind memes, I love ’em.
And I hate ’em.
….If I had to choose, I guess I’d say I hate to love ’em but I love to hate ’em.
I think I made a post a while back comparing memes to the sprinkles of the internet. They’re that dash of a little something extra that makes the internet enjoyable.
Gotta love that there’s a meme for everything~
I still stand by that assessment. I think it’s pretty accurate. Like sprinkles are not necessary for an ice cream sundae but they kind of make the experience, right? If they’re not there, it’s a noticeable difference. If memes weren’t around, I think the internet would still be pretty great but it’d be missing that extra oomph that just makes the experience. Does that make sense?
I think memes are the glue that hold us all together omg I hate myself. They’re possibly the most universal elements on the internet. They are relatable and they have resonance. Usually, they speak to some aspect of the human experience that we all understand, seemingly regardless of language or even culture in some cases.
For instance, my sister and I love Russian cat memes. We have been sending them back and forth to each other for months now and they never grow old. Do either of us speak a lick of Russian??? Я немного понимаю. (извините, принесите пожалуйста бутылку водки! (Excuse me, please bring a bottle of vodka!) is also good to know~) But no, we don’t know much Russian between us. Still, these are enjoyable:
Our favourite~ The amount of times a day we say “Give ringlets”….
Memes are fast becoming the language of the internet. Which is of immense interest to me. At this point, I think it’s obvious I find there to be an art to meme-making. Of the art, though, I’m particularly interested in how it seems to be reviving Dada and Surrealist ideals. I see traces of these movements in this new wave/form of creation. Actually, I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing my thesis on Neo-Dadaism and Neo-Surrealism in new digital media such as ELit, memes, and gifs. Also, Dada was a response to the absurdity of WWI–all these first world nations, commonly considered the pinnacles of culture, fighting over 50 feet of mud–and I’m curious if I could find a similar impetus in the real world for the resurgence of Dada forms in art. It’s something I’ve already written a little about while reviewing a piece of ELit by Jason Nelson a few semesters back.
Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s something I could do or who I would even consult about it but it sparks my creative interest and meshes well with my background in art history and fine arts, as well.
It’s something this work has got me thinking of, at the very least.
Selfie Post: Check out my thoughts on the Selfie medium. I analyse a few different viewpoints on the subject as well as discuss or, really, make a case for why the Selfie is a form of art and one that has meaning and value in our world. Highly recommend checking this out before our Twitter chat on Tuesday night (2/13).
*Wisecrack on Youtube has 2 great videos on the philosophy of Black Mirror if you’d like to check them out. This one is pre-4th season and this one is after the 4th season came out. The latter looks at the show through the 4th season’s last episode “Black Museum”.
(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!
Whether it’s the Dada nonsense of Duchamp (i.e. his lovely Fountain) or the Neo-Dada digitized nonsense embodied in some works of ELit such as in Jason Nelson’s This is How You Will Die, there will be critics and they will be harsh.
Digital art is the newest on the scene and so I believe that’s part of why there is so much skepticism surrounding it. Some people think it is inherently less because of its digital assistance. There’s something less real about it as if anything at all is really real. Also, I’ve noticed there’s this perception that it takes less skill to create digital work which somehow translates to less meaning and less thoughtfulness. As if one couldn’t possibly imbue a work made through a digital medium with even a modicum of meaning that oil on canvas can. These people have obviously never had to code a thing a day in their lives or never placed something on the WRONG layer in Photoshop >.<There’s this traditional idea of toil and suffering for one’s art, blood and sweat, that isn’t realized the same way in the creation of digital art that establishes this disconnect.
That said, from the tone of Tuesday’s night’s twitter chat, it seems attitudes are in the process of shifting. Most people, myself included, have not only experienced digital art and found something worthwhile in it but have contributed to its proliferation and propagation–We’ve spread it. We’ve createdit. We appreciate it.
At least, in some form.
Many of us have made memes or gifs or have learned how to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Microsoft Paint was “old hat” to some. DeviantArt (which makes me think of Degenerate Art and of how reclaiming language can have a profound and powerful affect) had a vocal advocate, too. It was very clear that, at least among our cohort, digital art isn’t the new Degenerate Art.
It’s our art.
We were sympathetic towards the issues of surrounding digital art. For example, it’s very easy to re-post art online without providing proper attribution to artists. To me, this contributes to that problem of digital art being perceived as cheaper because the work that goes into creating it is seen as less. This leads to a trickle-down devaluation of the medium in that it makes people unwilling to pay a fair commission price for digital work due to the perception that because it is so widely available, it must be a simple task to create. Which is simply not true.
Of course, questions of accessibility also arise. Most of us, perhaps because of the above situation, don’t see digital art as a commodity so much as we do an amenity of the internet. It’s decorative or it’s fun or funny, entertaining. And because it’s online and not in a museum, we feel more entitled to it, maybe? I felt an undercurrent of this feeling in our Twitter chat. I don’t think money came up at all which says a lot about how we think of digital art and work that exists in digital spaces to me.
And, while I’m all for allowing people to have access to beautiful and meaningful works, regardless of their economic status, sex, race, creed, etc., I don’t think the rampant, creditless re-posting and exploitation or artists’ work is a fair system. More, it pushes artists towards having to fund themselves through other means and on online platforms, that means ads~
Ultimately. the system devalues what it should be promoting.
Which is so unfortunate because I do believe there is a lot of potential to create beauty and meaning and even beautiful, meaningless nonsense through digital means.
What was interesting to me, though, was how many of us counted photography among our skills. This, I believe, relates to double-edged word: accessibility–all of us have phones that double as cameras now. We have ample opportunity to exercise this skill.
We had opportunities to exercise our photography skills this week.
First: A Photo Safari. 7 challenges/prompts. 15 minutes to respond with photos to as many of the prompts as possible. 1 freezing cold, Northeastern USA day and 1 dreadfully dull university campus. What could go wrong???
Tbh, nothing much.
In fact, I think we all showed off our photo-taking skills rather well. For myself, I was surprised at how many pictures I was able to capture–6 out of 7.
My favourites have to be these (in response to prompts 2, 3, & 7):
This is probably my favourite photo overall. I like how my shadow is replicated in the glass and how it is superimposed over the mask. If I had the means, I would’ve liked to have more of the “face part” of my shadow overlaying the mask. I think it would’ve created a more complex dissonance. What is my true face, you know?
I stand by my decision to put a black & white filter on the photo. It really emphasizes the shadowy parts of this composition and, to me, adds a sense of mystery or of foreboding.
As you can tell, I’m kind of a filter junkie. But, I think my filter choices resonate with the content of my photos. The filters emphasize a tone or help create a feeling. Of course, it’s always nice to incorporate those elements “naturally” and in the original composition if possible. But if you can’t, it’s nice to still have the opportunity to do it. Good example of access.
If memes and gifs are the sprinkles of the internet then filters are the sprinkles of photography~
Another opportunity we had to explore and build-upon our photography know-how was an “oldie-but-a-goodie” to me: 5 Card Flickr Roulette Story. (We accessed this activity through the new Make Bank portal.)
Essentially, you pick 5 photos–provided through Flickr–at random and try to compose a story from them. It’s a different way of looking at photography than in the first activity but, to me, it’s possibly the most important aspect of the art–creating story, narrative. Instilling meaning.
***Title for the 2nd work inspired by a line from Kendrick Lamar’s “XXX.”
I explained it more in my response on Make Bank but I believe images are moments and poetry is the art we extract from moments. More, poetry is how we refine experience and distill it into its most essential, truthful, and deeply human parts. We are all made up of experiences, after all. Don’t want to go off an abstract tangent though~
Exercises like these provide opportunities for us to explore the intersection between different medias and mediums as well as provide opportunities to explore and expound upon our own creativity. In the process, we learn new ways to express ourselves and to convey meaning. More, these activities highlight how story is not exclusive to writing. It can be visual. It can be digital. And, it can still have impact.
That’s really important.
Not Finding Meaning
All this said, there was an interesting point raised in the Twitter chat around digital art and meaning. For many, digital art is an outlet like any other creative venture. It’s something they do to relax or to think or to spend quality time with the self. It is not seen an act with any particular purpose or meaning assigned to it, in that way.
There was some push-back to this idea–that digital art could be inherently meaningless.
But, to me, this makes sense??? Maybe it’s because I lean towards the existential side of nihilism, but I believe there is no intrinsic meaning in anything. We give things meaning. We make meaning. We decide meaning. The things that have meaning to me reflect decisions I have made about their value. Don’t want to go off on a nihilistic tangent either though~ Art isn’t an exception.
Anyway, while I strongly believe there can be meaning in digital art and that it can be a powerful tool to convey meaning, that doesn’t mean it has to mean anything. I mean, most Dada artists and some Surrealists rejected any attempt to impose meaning on their work and some of those works are still highly regarded today. The Futurists were totally opposed to art being anything other than embodiment of mechanical and industrial concepts. De Stijl artists (like Piet Mondrian with his infamous squares) were also interested in removing the, well, personal expression from art. (Mondrian’s compositions of squares do strinkigly resemble the clean lines of skyscrapers and of city infrastructure. #themoreyouknow~) Photography was originally used as just a cataloging tool.
The point is digital art shouldn’t have to have an inherent meaning either to be important. That’s a really high standard as well as an arbitrary one. Especially is meaning is what we make it and nothing more.
An element to digital art that I always find interesting and that we touched upon a little in class tonight is that of preservation or conservation. With how quickly tech is advancing, how do we preserve the work created during such a transitional period? More, should we be blithely preserving all digital work or should we be more discerning? Also, should older works of digital art, such as some ELit pieces, be “updated” if they were made using now-obsolete means in order to preserve their original accessibility?
These kinds of questions fascinate me.
They arise in the traditional art world, as well. For example, Dieter Roth (sometimes called Dieter Rot) was an artist who worked in foodstuffs. He made sausages out of books (Literaturwurst) and other things in imitation of food before he began actually making paintings with yogurt and these famous busts out of chocolate. He even had an entire gallery exhibition that was just suitcases sitting in the gallery, filled with cheese. (It did not last long.)
Anyway, questions arise about preservation all the time with these kinds of works–is it going against the intent of the work and of the artist to preserve these pieces? A part of the art is that it was not made to last. It wouldn’t have been made out of food otherwise. Roth once said works of art, “should change like man himself, grow old and die.”
Many want to preserve art for posterity. It is a part of the human story and so it has value in that way. Some argue art is timeless as well and so should be preserved, for future experiences of it.
But, that’s what’s going on with the traditional side of art. What about the digital side?
This week in class, we explored The Wayback Machine which is an archive of the internet. It preserves moments in time, what pages or sites looked like, well, way back. Along with Vanessa and Hailey, I explored the history of etoy which seems to be a work of ELit that was established in the 90s and is based on a real legal situation the creators had that they re-imagined as a kind of war. To be honest, it seemed very complicated and extremely meta. The current website seems to imply that etoy is a kind of commentary on current models of corporate structures??? The jobs page is a real delight to read–corporate jargon mixed with actual nonsense. It’s a very devoted piece of ELit.
Anyway, again, it’s interesting to see how people are going about preserving digital art and work. I know there’s also the ELit Libraries which are curated collections of ELiterature pieces. And, there’s the I EPoetry site as well created by Leonardo Flores (@Leornardo_UPRM). These are just some of the ways people are trying to preserve digital art and work. After all, there are no museums for this stuff, right?
It’ll be interesting to see if that changes or to see what initiatives if any are put in place to preserve digital work. And, how that may affect access.
I guess I’m left wondering about art and accessibility.
Particularly, I’m concerned about the new digital element and how it affects the intersection of art and accessibility. Obviously, it complicates some things. But, ultimately, I feel it offers more opportunities than it does problems. I think old ideas of what art should be and about what stories are detract from everything else working in a digital medium provides creators and innovators. Questions about preservation are relevant but about whether or not digital art is art??? No. Get out of here. Sounds elitist and woefully uniformed.
And, that’s how I feel.
If you feel differently, I’m all kinds of interested in why~
Vanessa’s Post about etoy (one of the weirdest, meta ELit pieces either Hailey or I have come across~ Seriously, researching this project was a trip)
*Stumbled across this article on the class site and I had to give my recommendation. It discusses some alternatives in the works to the internet. While these alternative options definitely appeal to my desire for privacy–which ties into safety, as this article made me realize–I found myself conflicted about what instituting some of these sites in practice would mean. It rose objections for me. More, it made me aware of what putting one of these alternative site that doesn’t store information centrally would mean. Highly recommend reading.
*An essay I wrote on nihilism and Neo-Dadaism in Jason Nelson’s This Is How You Will Die if you’re interested. Highly recommended checking out the actual piece, too.
*Speaking of poetry, a book I’ve been reading and would recommend is Depression & Other Magic Tricksby Sabrina Benaim. It explores depression and loss in a very human way. It’s quickly become a friend~
*One Dada manifesto in case you’re curious. (By Tzara, typically credited as a founder of Dada)
*A fun and interesting video that explores 2 different kinds of nihilism–existential and cosmic–through a philosophical exploration of 2 of my favourite animated shows: Rick & Morty and Bojack Horseman. Both fun and educational ^.^
*On Art: Meet my friend Drac~
(nickel sheet metal, nickel wire, silver solder, black acrylic, & black plastic thread)
*For those who don’t know, I make art out of metal as well as words. Drac is one of my latest projects and one of my biggest. I’m also no sure if he has any inherent meaning other than I like bats and the moon~ He is going to be in a student show coming up~
So, I’ve had a bit of a change of heart from last week. It’s come to my attention that I may have been far too ambivalent about my feelings toward online data tracking. More, I believe I let the internet ideals I hold in high regard cloud my judgement of the realities that currently rule the digital landscape.
When confronted with the realities of third-party tracking servers and learning algorithms, it is almost impossible to believe how unconscionably and irresponsibly online sites and Big Business corporations are allowed to operate in the digital sphere. It’s disturbing just how much information about me is not only readily accessible but profitable–big time. (I voiced some of my concerns in regards to Robert Heaton’s post on the ins-n-outs of online tracking here and here.) What concerns me most is the lack of privacy and the lack of consent. These sites are making stupid money selling my information to the highest bidder. As Zeynep Tufekci says in her TED Talk, we are not consumers in this financial equation. We are products. Hot products (emphasis mine).
And, I’m aware it is because of this current system of practice that the internet and most social media sites are freely available to the public but does that access offset the cost? Is the exchange from human to commodity, soluble as it may be, fair?
I credit my initial ambivalence toward online data tracking/mining to my prior perception that I wasn’t really sharing all that much personal information on the web. And, what I was sharing, was non-consequential at best. Who cares that I follow a poetry page on FB, a pro-legalization page, or that I retweet sappy quotes, right? A lot of people.
Let’s take a look at that Twitter data and at just how easy it is to compile and create a profile of me from:
For some reason (I’m sure someone has created an algorithm to figure out), I have a propensity for tweeting heavily on Thursdays around 6AM & Fridays around 1AM???
With an activity log like this one, corporations could time what ads would be most effective not just to the day but down to the minute. And, they would be able to find out what ads I as a consumer would be most receptive to through data like this:
From this data set, anyone who wanted to could easily identify what news I follow through hashtag usage and what my relevant interests are through who I retweet as well as what my affiliations are outside of Twitter through what sites link back to me. All of this data can be compiled and associations can be made from it and cookies can follow up on its trends so that there is always an advertisement designed particularly with me in mind, no matter where my internet journeys take me.
The world wide web ain’t so much a democracy anymore, is it?
What’s almost more troubling than the idea that my digital self has zero to zilch autonomy or agency is that this same information can be used to affect the quality of my life outside of the internet. Institutions have invested heavily in this data and can use it to withhold certain services IRL. This is explained in episodes 2 & 3 of Do Not Track, a documentary series that explores online data tracking.
For instance, in episode 3, you are provided the option to connect your FB account to a risk assessment site (Illuminis) created, as you discover, by the creators of Do Not Track to illustrate how certain information could be collected digitally and could be used to affect your life and opportunities outside the internet.
The information it’s able to gather is mildly concerning, to say the least:
The first screen that pops up after connecting your account
Not only is Illuminis able to show what pages I liked on FB, it is able to establish a personality profile from those pages I like as well as from other info from my FB profile.
I dispute some of the conclusions drawn about my character~
Which is all fun and games until you see how this information is applied to real world situations. Because of something as simple as liking a post in support of decriminalizing cannabis or following a page that shares posts about traveling to exotic places or being female apparently, things so seemingly minuscule in the grand scheme of the internet, I could turn myself into a poor investment to some interested parties.
Yahtzee! I was a “mediocre candidate” and a “risk” in both my financial and healthcare assessments. In fact, I was not a candidate at for healthcare because of my possibly propensity towards “high risk activity” as indicated by my social media profile~
This is problematic–especially when you see how many daily devices and platforms you use routinely make use of tracking software such as cookies:
And what is perhaps most troubling and most problematic about all of this is that there is very little you and I can do to improve this situation. Again, as Tufekci reiterates in her TED Talk, it is the system that has been put in place that needs to fundamentally change. More, it is the financial structures that govern that system that need changing and a reorganization of values. Unfortunately, those are not tasks that can be very well accomplished on an individual level.
At least, not unless the rules of play change.
In our studio visit with Brett Gaylor, the director of Do Not Track, discussion revolved around what measures can be enacted to combat this online data tracking free-for-all pay to play suck it losers. More, we discussed how can anyone achieve any semblance of privacy in such a monitored environment and, while maintaining some kind of separation, be able to still participate in the digital sphere. Gaylor says, “Privacy is what allows us to be authentic people” after all. I would further argue that privacy and anonymity allow for activism and advocacy as well and when using a platform that has the capacity and capability to spread awareness that can facilitate necessary action, it is more than important certain protections be in place.
Most tracking services and cookies rely heavily on implicit consent rather than an explicitly provided one, especially in North America. In episode 2 of Do Not Track(?), it is shown that European countries require websites disclose to users whether or not cookies are being used to track data. Even though the only option to being given that info is “OK” or leave the site at least it’s an attempt to inform consumers. That’s more than we can say here.
It may be a small gesture but there is something powerful about returning responsibility, agency, and accountability, no matter the amount, to the entities that shouldn’t have had it stolen from them in the first place. It’s representative of freedom–that of choice and of digital self-determination, choosing who can use our data and for what purpose. More, the gesture is informing. While many people may be aware that they are being monitored through their devices and their social media, the extent to which is probably less clear. (As evidenced by my own beliefs and those of my classmates here. There seems to be a distinct disconnect between our perception of the surveillance and its reality, something Tiff(?) I believe touches upon. Also, questions about the “necessary evil” of tracking arise as well by Hailey–I mean, disconnecting from the internet now essentially means disconnecting from the world; becoming less relevant and less informed. To leave or not to leave is not an easy problem to resolve.)
For me, what it really comes down to though is finding a way to restructure the system to value the ethical more than the financial. Tufekci ends her TED Talk saying, “We need a digital economy where our data and our attention is not for sale to the highest bidding authoritarian or demagogue.”Side note: She kicks ass and I’d love to meet her IRL.
This shift has to be non-negotiable, though. There has to be not just regulation of but enforcement of ethical internet practices in some way. To me, this means there must be an incentive–the easiest kind of enforcement but also the most expensive $$$$.
As stated in Gaylor’s Do Not Track, most of these sites make their prime revenue from ads and the amount many of us would be willing to pay out of pocket to use these services per month pales in comparison to what these sites can make through selling our data. With the state of net neutrality itself, I’m honestly not sure how easy it would be to accomplish some kind of endowment or fund for the internet to sway platforms using it away from the allure of data tracking~ There’s a political side to all of this as well, of course. What kind of world do we live in that our right to privacy has become politicized….
I’m not proposing a step-by-step plan here for how to go about fixing the internet but I think there are conditions that must be met or else the internet will continue to remain a lose-lose situation for consumer privacy.
Keeping the Game Going
When it comes to data tracking, that latter half–tracking–seems to steal most of the glory. But that data part is, arguably, the most important component here. Without the data, there’s nothing to track after all. And how are these sites accumulating data, you may ask? By keeping us on their sites for as long as possible, of course. And how do they do that? By providing lots of shiny buttons to click and sensational videos to watch and hot music to listen to, of course. And how do they choose those things? By analyzing consumer data, of course. Tracking trends. Tracking us. Full circle, huh?
That said, I disagree almost philosophically with articles that forward this idea that the increasing use of technology is making us stupider as a whole. Quite frankly I find the notion insulting, uninformed, and usually ageist. It has been my experience that most articles of this nature are pushing their own narrative or agenda without adequately considering the many beneficial applications of the technology and weighing them against the cons. They want to focus on the very worst aspects of social media and apply those findings to all new digital media.
And, of course, they blame the consumers wholeheartedly.
There isn’t one mention of the corporate entities or the learning algorithms that are largely responsible if not entirely so for how these social media sites are designed. In my humble opinion, the lack of ethical or conscientious advertising paired with the unregulated data tracking is far more egregious and should be of far more concern to our society than whether or not some people prefer technological amusements to someone’s IRL company. More, it reveals a distinct bias and a pronounced agenda that I have simply no interest in entertaining. (If you want to hear me get super salty about it, I highly suggest you check out this thread~)
An aspect of this problem I am interested in entertaining relates back to the issue of privacy online and how that affects authentic expression overall. I wonder to what extent all of this monitoring, this surveillance, has affected our behavior IRL. The recent uptick in content being posted to social media platforms that I believe wouldn’t have been uploaded a decade ago (i.e. the Logan Paul Suicide Forest video to Youtibe, or the brutal fights shared via FB live, that livestream posted to Instagram of a woman getting into a car accident and killing her sister, etc.) leads me to believe that we may all be becoming more performative–because we believe we are always being watched. In that sense, everything about ourselves becomes content for public consumption. We are products. It’s all some reality show. A performance art piece–neo-Dadaist style.
Removing privacy as a valuable concept from the social consciousness is a pretty good way to eliminate the issue of privacy from the data tracking discussion entirely again, in my humble opinion~.
It makes me wonder about authenticity. If privacy is what allows us to be authentic people, as Gaylor said, what is authentic expression in a world without a concept of privacy? How does living without a sense of a private self affect your self image? Because digital selves are so public, does that mean that they can never be private?
I don’t know. I really don’t.
End Game…Plot Twist???
Ultimately, the issue of online data tracking leaves me dissatisfied–a little abjectly horrified too, tbh. (I’m not sure if that’s much better or far worse than feeling conflicted.)
I fundamentally disagree with it and have serious reservations with the system’s current business practices and ethics but I also understand that the internet can’t very well run without the current infrastructure. I mean, it’s entirely doable just not practical at this moment in time. I wish there was more transparency, though, and accountability. Right now, the onus is on consumers who are really commodities and so don’t even have the power that would be afforded to them if they were consumers. Simply, we’re not properly informed about what’s going on behind our screens and so we can’t consent.
It’s like we’re playing a game that’s been designed to beat us.
We’re being exploited for all we’re worth and most of us are gladly participating in our own exploitation.
Which is unfortunate because the internet really has the capacity to be this place where communities of individuals can gather and create, innovate, better themselves and the world at large. Just look at our little community here:
Can you find yourself? Do we connect? If not, why not???? Drop a line and say, “Hey” ^.^
It’s hard to entirely dismiss the internet when it’s responsible for the creation of something like this. It’s the current system that has made our community possible. At the same time, the very system and algorithms that make our community possible are responsible for the creation of a lot of really toxic and problematic digital communities, ones that perpetuate falsehoods and often dangerous narratives and that profit off of it. Again, there’s just an issue of consent but of oversight, culpability, and many other serious problems that have, unfortunately, in many instances, been politicized. This is another aspect of internet use I would categorize as of greater importance than whether or not we’re addicted to social media. (Though, I’ll grant this ties into whether or not the internet is making us stupider. More uniformed, really.) Its difficult to reconcile all of these many sides of the internet. Seems easier to let yourself get lost in the stream.
I’m not sure where any of this leaves us other than in need of a drink but I’d love to hear your thoughts~
*I’ve recommended this video a couple of times throughout my #netnarr travels but I think, especially in light of both our current class discussions and the current state of political affairs in our country, it is incredibly relevant. It’s from an educational channel and it’s all about how to navigate this post-truth error where such things as “alternative facts” exist. More, it’s an exploration of the relationship between social media, consumerism, and factual truth. Highly recommend checking it out~
*A documentary that I’ve watched recently and would recommend is Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. It’s different from Do Not Track but it is still interested in bringing an underlying truth to the surface. (Plus, it’s an Oscar nominee. (Double plus, it’s free if you have Amazon Prime))~
*This week’s musical artist of choice I listened to while hitting the grind was blackbear, if you want to check him out~
Till next time~
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s 2017 Electronic Literature course.