The Honeymoon’s Over: Reflecting on the Internet Utopianism and the Arts Published to The Civic Beat

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of co-presenting on a panel with An Xiao Mina and Ben Valentine. Below is my excerpt of the full write up by all three of us published to The Civic Beat! Exciting!! Please feel free to share thoughts and comments. Or feel free to connect with me via Twitter @deedottiedot

*          *          *          *

After the wonderful opportunity of co-presenting with Ben Valentine and An Xiao Mina of The Civic Beat, I have to admit, I actually looked up the term “honeymoon period.” The good ole internet actually provided two distinct definitions. Apparently the honeymoon phase for diabetics signals the start of insulin treatment while the Urban Dictionary states, “The three-month maximum period between a person’s entry into a new situation and a person’s complete screwing up of said situation or essential elements of it. This phenomenon is backed by massive amounts of studies in social psychology and even more massive amounts of personal testimony from bitter, angry people.”

The second definition sounds about right. But this reliance on the internet for research needs, a good laugh, and engaging in human rights activism has some disadvantages to it as well. Taking into account the very name of our panel, we tasked ourselves the tough question of whether the internet utopian vision and ideologies of the earlier internet still rang true today. We had three different ways to discuss the question. Not so surprisingly, I answered with a desire to not forget the body and our sensations. From social networking to internet bots to memes, my plea to the audience for the evening was to not forget our sense of self and body in this highly mobile age.

While technology moves at a feverishly rapid pace, we may find ourselves lost even before we figure out the best way to look, research, and obtain exactly what we need. I decided to focus on how new media artists use the internet and mobile technologies that incorporate the body somehow. Whether through augmented reality or applications to actually embodiment of a fictitious or mythical character or creature online, I found myself interested in how new media artists are dismantling such ideologies.

During the presentation, one of the individuals I focused on was new media artist John Craig Freeman. He uses augmented reality in his artistic practice, which is heavily used by advertisers to overlay landscapes and buildings with branding for marketing purposes. But Freeman uses this technology to interrogate the politics of space. Essentially, anyone with a smart phone and the internet can find out about the objective and purpose of each of his interventionist projects.

For the past year, I have examined his piece, Border Memorial: Fronteras de Los Muertos, which enables a viewer to download augmented reality application Layar. Once downloaded, the user has the option of travelling to specific locations, in this case, the US Mexican border, and holding their phone to the landscape. Calacas or skeletons appear on the screen. These serve as markers to specific spots within the landscape where the remains of migrants attempting to cross the border have been found and identified.

Now, I don’t want to end on such a sad note but you’re probably asking yourself why I’m so interested in addressing the original question or problem statement with emphasis on such a tricky concept of embodiment. Quite frankly, the word alone makes me feel like I’m falling into an abyss. But it also reminds me that the internet has a way of making us forget about our bodies and our senses. Rather, it amplifies this need for us to only focus on vision.

Perhaps, my academic research and investment in in real life (IRL), physical activism prompts me to try and strike this unending balancing act. While I straddle the lines of loving and hating the internet, I’m forced to have a relationship with it. So I wonder if there was ever a honeymoon period to begin with? Am I not in the dating phase of still getting to know this rhizomatic entity that continues to excite yet infuriate me? Ha! Sure sounds like one a rewarding relationship and like any relationshipone that takes A LOT of work to understand.

Full write up can be read here.

Theorizing the Web 2013 Review published to Creative Applications Network

Theorizing the Web Symposium, Free Speech for Whom with Danah Boyd, Adrian Chen, and Zepnef Tufecki
Theorizing the Web Symposium, Free Speech for Whom with Danah Boyd, Adrian Chen, and Zepnef Tufecki – Photo Credit: Aaron Thompson

A strangeness abounds when people are asked to theorize and elucidate something so untethered and rhizomatic as the Internet. At its basic structure, networks connect us to the images, data and knowledge we draw upon every day. Yet what is at the heart of these connections and what separates or integrates our In Real Life (IRL) and digital personas? This past weekend, the annual Theorizing the Web conference took place in New York’s bustling Midtown district at the City University of New York’s (CUNY) graduate center. Co-founders Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey created the conference in the hopes of balancing theory and practice with the diverse set of presenters and contributors while bridging the gap between institution and academia to the general public. Since the theme of this year’s conference dealt primarily with notion of surveillance, many of the panels focused on the different ways surveillance is used, not only to learn behaviors and habits of people, but as a means of creating a self through data or better understanding our connections and interactions online…read the entire review here

ZERO1 Artist Alum, Scott Kildall ~ Tweets in Space, Experimental Art and Live Performance

ZERO1 artist alum, Scott Kildall, is working on yet another amazing arts and technology project, Tweets in Space. The project has been covered by BBC, Forbes, Scientific American, CNET, Tech Trendy, Tech Mash and many other media organizations! Below, you will find a full description of ‘Tweets in Space’ and links to the Rocket Hub fundraising page and the project site.

*          *          *         *

Official Press Release and Text Source: Artists ‘Tweets in Space’ Project Site

Artists, Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern will beam Twitter discussions from participants worldwide towards GJ667Cc – an exoplanet 22 light years away that might support earth-like biological life. Anyone with an Internet connection can participate during two performance events, which will simultaneously take place online, at the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA2012, New Mexico), and in the stars. By engaging the millions of voices in the Twitterverse and dispatching them into the larger Universe, Tweets in Space activates a potent discussion about communication and life that traverses beyond our borders or understanding. It is not just a public performance; it performs a public.

The artists will collect all Twitter messages tagged #tweetsinspace and transmit them into the cosmos via either a home-built or borrowed communication system. Our soon-to-be alien friends will receive scores of unmediated thoughts and feedback about politics, philosophy, pop culture, dinner, dancing cats and everything in between. All tweets will also be streamed to a live public website, where they’ll be permanently archived, as well as projected – as animated twitter spaceships towing messages – at the Balloon Museum and planetarium-like digital dome (IAIA), in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Your donation will help buy equipment that will enable the artists to build their own open-source transmission system, upgrade an existing one through partnership with another institution, and/or time with one of the world’s extant high-powered communicators. Any funds above our goal will pay for a better system, or go towards online coding, design, and promotion. RocketHub is not an investment or charity. It is an exchange: funds from fans for rewards from us: both the ability to send Tweets into Space, and then some. It’s an All & More funding mechanism for us: if we don’t reach our financial goal we get to keep what we raise. But if we do reach our goal, we get access to exciting opportunities.

Tweets in Space asks us to take a closer look at our spectacular need to connect, perform and network with others. It creates a tension between the depth and shallowness of sharing 140 characters at a time with the entire Internet world, in all its complexity, richness and absurdity, by transmitting our passing thoughts and responses to everywhere and nowhere. These “twitters” will be stretched across all time and space as a reflection on the contemporary phenomenon of the “status” updates we broadcast, both literal and metaphoric.

Please click here to help fund Tweets in Space via RocketHub* and to learn more info on the project, click here.

Kildall and Stern are slated to launch the project at ISEA — the International Symposium on Electronic Art — this September in New Mexico, and are excited and are now trying to raising $8500 since it turns out it’s pretty difficult to send messages into the cosmos.

* What is RocketHub? RocketHub is very much like Kickstarter, only a better fit for our project. They do direct credit card payments, instead of going through Amazon Payments, they can handle international orders and have more of a science focus.

Originally posted to ZERO1, please click here to view

The Limitations of 140 Characters & Our Communication Culture | In Other Words exhibition @ Intersection for the Arts

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I asked a dear friend about her attention span. She was candid in sharing that if 200 characters don’t entice her, you’ve lost her. She is an intelligent woman and I completely trust her opinion. Now, that’s not a lot characters to lure someone in. Yet, it speaks to the culture we live in. Granted, this post (originally posted to zero1‘s blog) is pretty lengthy but the show resonated with me because words are important to me (duh!). Being a writer is difficult and challenging work. I constantly wonder who might care but as one of my great mentors shared with me…this is why you write…because you give someone something to care about. Okay, enough, enjoy the piece AND if you make it through the entire piece, I will send you something in the mail (promise). 😉

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Technology often conjures up images of mobile devices, machines, and programming. Yet, technology, according to Wikipedia, “…is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function”. With all the taxonomies and ever evolving nature of art, new technologies present themselves everyday. Yet, the barrage of images in the media are not the only thing that inundate us. Language is ubiquitous. What limitations do we experience when we’re forced to use only 140 characters? What does this impact the way we communicate? Or how do we make sense of the words that make it into our vernacular in such a fast paced environment? In Other Words, showing at the Intersection for the Arts, showcases the work of contemporary artists interpreting our collective relationship and understanding of language. Kevin Chen, Intersection for the Arts program director, gathered artists looking at the written word to extrapolate human behavior and creativity, re-configurations and semantics of language, the tactile nature of typography and script, and the physical placement of text.

Imagine the networks and visual spaces we visit. What would those lines, images, and words look like meshed together? Emanuela Harris-Sintamarian answers this question through her visual metaphors of social media. Her work forces the viewer to realize that it doesn’t really matter where you look because it is all within the same space. The habit-forming behavior of constantly checking our e-mail, looking for new tweets, and compulsively looking at peoples’ photo albums online is the basis for this work. She shows how we open ourselves up to a world hoping to find something new but it is all the same material. The same people in different places. Harris-Sintamarian’s work is a testament to how our minds might synthesize and re-appropriate the world.

Christine Wong Yap’s work looks at Optimism and Pessimism in human behavior. Inspired by the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Yap’s drawings are interpretations of his notable sayings and statistical analyses. The replication of scientific text through drawing and handwriting solidifies good habits in the viewer as well. Yet they serve as meditations for the artist. Her well curated info-graphics and carefully written text are worth the attention. In this digital age, people will find Yap’s work refreshing because it serves to remind us of our capacity to create.

Katie Gilmartin Queer Words re-contextualizes the relationship between words and images. Although seemingly mundane and innocuous, words such as ‘bear’ may conjure a wild animal, yet take on a completely different meaning within the queer lexicon. The vernacular and pictures Gilmartin employs are humorous and overt. She plays into both our collective consciousness and gender constructs.

Speech and language take on a physical form in Alex Potts work while Cassie Thornton re-interprets the television as a form of purely textual communication. Past the main entrance, visitors see a spiral staircase with multiple white waxed cornucopias inviting the viewer to engage and experience space, form, and sound. Potts work with audio and feedback based on the participants’ engagement with the work is integral to comprehension of what language may sound like from one person to another. He creates the forms but relies on the active listener and participant to bring the piece to life. In Education Delivers People (2011), Cassie Thornton re-interprets Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman’s work, Television Delivers People (1973). Thornton’s piece seems to translate, to a certain degree, a similar message but tailored to a contemporary audience. Simultaneously, the work reflects history and how it relates to the current state of the economy. Through stand alone text, without all the images and superfluous media, the viewer becomes enlightened.

Textile work, “She wrote love letters in 1971”, by Julia Goodman, the viewer is left to imagine love letters. Goodman layered and folded memories together to create a simulacra of memories in a piece with very little text. The piece serves as a testament to how the imagination creates the stories, words, phrases, and tales perhaps much richer in the mind devoid of spell check. “Wear your biggest smile. (2012), by Annie Vought, is based on a collection of dreams culled from the Internet. She visualizes a particular order by precisely cutting away to reveal a translation of virtual to physical.

Lastly, physical engagement with text in space is seen in the work of Meryl Pataky. Your Company (2012) and Say It Out Loud (2012) made with steel, brass, and computer parts displays our digital waste and re-configures the refuse into physical three-dimensional language. The shapes and bends of the material simulate how we may perceive the world in which we work and find ourselves confined to. Pataky creates a bit of mysticism in his deconstruction. We see the words but don’t necessarily have to understand the etymology. We see them in space and that is all that matters. In contrast, Susan O’Malley sprinkles plaques throughout the venue coupled with larger sandwich boards adorning the center of the gallery space. O’Malley wants to lead the viewer to an experience of art through a playful hide and seek of text which serves as a metaphor to the hidden meanings of language we encounter on a daily basis. Overall, our relationship to language is multi-faceted and constantly evolving as seen in these works. Chen’s selection of artists not only illuminate the complexity of language but evoke our senses and reactions to them.

Originally posted to the zero1 blog