Monthly Archives: April 2010

This isn’t extremely late or anything.

So, I’ve finally managed to get a solid first draft that won’t totally confuse all of you. I’m sorry this took so long, but it took me a while to figure out the format I wanted to present my project in. I’ve also been playing around a lot with transposing content through different mediums; i.e. computer voice through telephone, text through photographs, analog audio through digital video, etc… I’m not entirely finished yet, but here’s a sneek peak at what’s to come. This is only about 1/3 of my project. ENJOY and let me know what you think! I will definitely be taking all comments into consideration for the rough draft due wednesday!

Women and Social Networking

We have been talking extensively in class about the sharing of private information online. Missing from this conversation is the aspect of gender. I came across this article today on Jezebel, “Is Facebook ‘Girly?’? How Men and Women Use Social Media.” The article is written in response to a Forbes article that recently came out discussing “What Men and Women are Doing on Facebook.” The Forbes article cites that:

“the 400-million member site [Facebook] is 57% female and attracts 46 million more female visitors than male visitors per month. Plus, women are more active on Facebook. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says women on Facebook have 8% more friends and participate in 62% of the sharing. “The social world is led by women,” she concludes. And they’re leading that charge online.”

While women use social networks to share and connect, men only use these sites to increase their status. Jezebel responds by saying:

“So let’s say it’s true that women mostly use social media to share experiences — and, as the Forbes article has a duty to point out, be marketed to — and men to post on news sites and promote their careers. If we critique this as something that perpetuates women’s exclusion from influence and power, are we internalizing the belief that if a woman does something, it’s necessarily inferior?”

Does it matter that there are differences in the online behavior or men and women? Is it problematic that there are differences? Personally, I don’t think so. Not everyone uses the Internet for the same reason. However, I don’t think that we can chalk up differences in behavior to gender alone. Age, race, location, access, education – all of this attributes can make a difference in online behavior. Grouping people by their sex creates an incomplete picture.

Heavy Industries

The net art of YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES is different than many of the works we have discussed in the past weeks. The artists began working on these pieces in 1999, yet each work remains relevant ten years later. Each flash “movie” begins in a format we all recognize, the 10 second countdown and a screen with “Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries presents…” This iconic beginning gives the viewer a starting point to identity with – similar to many films we have seen before. Each work tells a different story using sizes of text, speed, and flashes of black to provoke emotion on an otherwise white canvas with black writing in a consistent font. The text moves at a rapid pace, a pace to fast that if you stop concentrating for a millisecond, you will miss something. With the many distractions of the the Internet and the way that we easily have five different tabs open simultaneously, consuming multiple pages on the Internet, the pace of these works keeps the viewer engaged on the Art, and only the Art. Unlike many works we have seen, these flash movies require no interaction, only concentration. We can decide which movies to watch, but the narrative is written and each piece is complete.

Each piece centers around a different theme – sex, surveillance, North Korean culture, politics, the Internet, technology, among others – and each piece seems to take a stance on these themes, relaying an opinion or statement. The artists translated the pieces into multiple languages, and while many of the pieces center on North Korea, they play off the Internet as a global epicenter. Underneath the loose narrative of each piece is a universal theme in which anyone can connect to. In one of the pieces “What Know?” they even state, “what now – our concerns become global.”

Each piece has it’s own score and the timing of each beat is perfectly tied to the display of words and sentences. As the words move quickly across the screen, the fast passed Jazz music keeps the viewer engaged and hyper attentive to the screen. It’s pretty amazing how perfectly timed every piece is. The importance of the music is reminiscent of film and the way both mediums of the Internet and film can create a full sensory experience by combining music and images. This was also central to “Flight,” in which the music added dramatic and urgent tones to the narrative.

The artists have also been able to present these works and others similar as installations in museums. Do you think this would add to the the experience (bigger screen, empty room)? Or is the web an integral part of the experience, making it more of an individual art consumption, rather than with a crowd.

The Era of Privacy is Over

Here’s a link to the LA Weekly article discussing the new facebook features, which gives users information to 3rd party websites.

While the motives behind facebook and the other projects are different, what really separates them.  In what cases do we allow others to peer into our lives, in contrast to other situations that we consider invasive.  Is it the commidification of personal information that we’re uncomfortable with rather than it’s accessibility?

Undomesticated Hypertext

The idea that feral hypertext–“projects [that] accept messiness, errors or ignorance and devise ways of making sense from vast numbers of varying contributions”–actually exist shows how incredibly complex and evolved our intelligent machines have become. The idea that something “feral” can make sense of a multitude of arbitrary information is extremely fascinating.  Once again we find new ways to make computers emulate the brain by creating “intimate extensions to memory”; feral hypertexts, unlike domesticated hypertexts, work a lot more like our brains in that they allow for interruption and aren’t strictly bounded based on linearity or guidelines.  Domesticated hypertexts needed these guidelines and rules in order to allow for a more thorough comprehension on our part. Humans need machines and programs to be straightforward in order to completely understand their purpose and to summarize their objective. Feral hypertexts, on the other hand, are a lot more free-flowing and allow for interjection, looping back, and randomness that still manages to represent some sort of “collective narrative.”  The idea of intertextuality resonates throughout feral hypertexts–all texts, are somehow interrelated and can connect to one another through algorithms that recognize similar traits in other texts–thus they form a comprehensible, yet sporadic narrative, a narrative that is definitely a lot harder to try and fully understand due to the vast extent in variations of the hypertext itself in its crude and unbounded form. 

The lack of discipline in feral hypertexts can, however, cause some problems. In Jill Walker’s “Feral Hypertexts” brings up the point that “our idea of authorship is the only thing that keeps fiction from enveloping our world.” She goes on to quote Foucault who makes the same argument in his statement: “How can one reduce the great peril, the great danger with which fiction threatens our world? The answer is: one can reduce it with the author. The author allows a limitation of the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations within a world where one is thrifty not only with one’s resources and riches, but also with one’s discourses and their significations. The author is the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning.” Walker goes on to defend Foucault by bringing up the point that so many spammers, hacksters, and hoaxes exist on the internet now a days in this age of feral hypertexts and their lack of authorship.  The fictions we’ve created with these wild narratives run rampant on the internet and can sometimes be quite difficult to wrap our heads around. 

Are we paranoid of these types of texts? Should texts necessarily be bounded for the simple sake of being able to fully understand our texts? Should we cage hypertextuality so that we know it through and through from front to back? I feel if the evolution between machine and human is to continue, we must continue to explore the boundless areas of these machines we humans have created. In order to see how much we’re willing to progress should we not allow our computers to be sporadic machines merely following one of the most basic laws of physics–entropy–so that we can continue to understand the regression of these machines only to discover how different it can be. In order to build on the strengths of our creations we must know how far they’re capable of slipping into the faulty; as Walker says,  “feral hypertext draws from our collective ideas and associations to create emergent structures and meanings. That is valuable , if only we can see it and appreciate it.”

We Feel Fine and Consumerism

A friend of mine and his parents are computer programmers. They are in the midst of creating a software that is very similar to We Feel Fine. However, they aren’t creating an Art project, they are creating a database that they pitch to companies as a marketing tool. For example, they will go to a company and tell them that they have a software that can survey the Internet for consumer feelings and sentiment and provide a report that will tell the company exactly what they want to know about their target audience. We Feel Fine is taking our sentiments off the Internet and putting it into book form. In two different ways, We Feel Fine creators as well as my friends are able to profit off public material on the Internet. Are we okay with that? Should we be okay with that?

While We Feel Fine might bring up debates on privacy issues, I think that it is important to talk about our own behavior, versus the people who are just taking advantage of that behavior. People seem quick to defend their intellectual property when they see it used, yet do not think twice about posting very private material in very public places. What is it about the Internet that gives users a sense of security, or even this urge to post statements and feelings that before, they might not even verbalize out loud – and surely they wouldn’t publish publicly?

Ten years ago, people probably wouldn’t post pictures of their weekend all over their office walls, for anyone to see. However, today, come Monday morning, it’s not that strange to post your weekend festivities all over the Internet, for anyone to see. Not only do we not think twice about this, we relish in the thought of posting these photos. We define moments in our life as “oh that would be a great profile pick,” or “this would be such a good photo.” We evaluate our real lives by how they might appear in a condensed online public portrayal. While reading through We Feel Fine, I almost felt uncomfortable reading through statements that were so private and personal, yet so publicly said. And it’s not just a generation thing. Plenty of Internet users that grew up “offline,” are using the Internet in a similarly public fashion than those that grew up “online.” I don’t really have answers to these questions, but it is definitely something we should all think about. I wonder if any of this behavior will change.

Project Draft

Here is the link to my project:

I am trying to create an environment where people can “deliberate” in the comment sections about the issues that I raise in each post. (sort of like Gamer Theory). If you have a chance to look at it, let me know what you think, or comment on any of the threads!

We Feel Fine and Twistori

I found both of these mediums really interesting.  I agree with Rachel about how they are able to bring into question our ideas of authorship as well.  Something I found intriguing was We Feel Fine’s ability to determine the sex of the publisher, and their emotions based on the post.  Initally, as I read their description of the project, I was a little uneasy about this assumption, but after reading many of the excerpts, I saw how gendered many of the posts were.  I also though the statistics at the bottom of each page were helpful in contextualizing the posts that I was reading.

I think both works also bring up the issue of “the end of the era of privacy.”  The people who have created this content are unaware of this outside usage, and some of the authors have posted personal information. People are becoming increasingly comfortable posting personal information on the internet, and this is only highlighted by these two projects.  It’s slightly bizarre, but I feel like most of us are guilty of it, assuming that what we are posting can old be read by friends.

Rough Draft

Here’s a link and I’ve e-mailed to the google group what I have so far of the actual program.  It might be confusing right now, but let me know what you think.


I feel inspired to blog about We Feel Fine

What a wonderful website! I could spend hours watching the “Murmurs” scroll up the screen. I especially enjoy the literary homage to Kurt Vonnegut in the FAQ section:

Your book feels a bit disjointed. I’m used to books being more linear — what’s going on?

At the beginning of Chapter 5 in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim finds himself in jail on the planet of Tralfamadore. Billys captors give him some Tralfamadorian books to pass the time, and while Billy can’t read Tralfamadorian, he does notice that the books are laid out in brief clumps of text, separated by stars. “Each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message — describing a situation, a scene,” explained one of his captors. “We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”

We aimed to write this book in the telegraphic, schizophrenic manner of tales from Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers are.

In my contemporary art history class last year, one of my classmates did a presentation on “Listening Post,” the project the authors cite as inspiration for “We Feel Fine.” The two projects operate on similar principles (displaying phrases algorithmically culled from the Internet) but use very different modes of display. “Listening Post” is an installation piece that displays its selected phrases on a huge, wall-sized grid of monitors and simultaneously reads or sings the phrases with an electronic voice synthesizer. I haven’t experienced it first-hand, but I’m told that the cumulative impact of “Listening Post” is a very grand, symphonic, almost church-like experience. Unfortunately, because the piece has only one terrestrial location, it’s quite difficult to experience firsthand (as far as I know, it hasn’t been displayed anywhere since 2007).

“We Feel Fine,” on the other hand, is available virtually anywhere on the Web in the form of a Java applet. While it loses the sheer magnitude and multi-sensory richness of an installation, it nevertheless achieves some pretty stunning effects in its chosen medium. It’s a much more intimate, private, and dynamic way to experience emotion-as-language-as-data. (Speaking of mediums, I’m curious as to how this project translates in book form.)

Projects like We Feel Fine raise interesting questions about “authorship” versus what for lack of a better word I’ll call “designership.” Harris and Kamvar describe We Feel Fine as “an artwork authored by everyone.” (“Mission”). As designers and facilitators, they make creative choices that significantly influence our experience of the textual content, but they don’t write a word of it themselves. The final product isn’t so much a “distributed narrative” as it is a condensed narrative made up of millions of momentary, disparate articulations across the Web. If you can even call it a narrative. I’m tempted to describe it as something more along the lines of taking the emotional temperature of our collective unconscious.