Required Reading

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"Art and social media" -- this topic is all anyone wants to talk about these days. The discussion extends from the staid -- the National Endowment for the Arts released a report titled "Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation" -- to more spicy ruminations on what "social media art" offers as a new category, as in the artist An Xiao’s recent three-part series for Hyperallergic.

On the one hand, this faddish obsession with "social media" is understandable. The Facebook Corp. has begun to wrap its fingers around every other aspect of life, so it is clearly logical to ask what effects social media might have on art-making. But at the same time, I find the chatter somehow sad, as if visual art’s power to inspire passion among a larger audience is so attenuated that it has to throw itself on whatever trendy thing is out there, to win some reflected glory for itself.

So, the question for me is this: Is there any more interesting way to think about the topic than the loose and impressionistic manner that it is currently framed? Maybe it’s worth noting that, of all the buzzwords of the present-day lexicon, "social media" is perhaps the only one that is more vaguely defined than "art." Let’s begin, then, by clarifying terms to see if we can get to a more interesting place.

-- FROM "SOCIAL MEDIA ART" IN THE EXPANDED FIELD BY BEN DAVIS IN ARTNET MAGAZINE

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On A Mountain Top (2010) - Alex Fuller (with Noah Bernsohn)

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At its most basic form, I believe social media is a dialogue. Onamountaintop.com allows users to say whatever it is they want to say with no accounts, no friends and no poking. Once the user’s entry fades to white, their words are gone forever. Just as one’s voice echoes into the valley from a mountain top. Pure poetry.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM ALEX FULLER'S SITE

Via Pocketmonsterd

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Immaterial Incoherence

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If we consider Internet art to be a distinct category of art making that uses the Internet as its primary medium or platform, we necessarily distinguish it from other forms in which the Internet does not play a primary role. The objects of Internet art are necessarily immaterial, and it is this immaterial quality that makes them so notoriously difficult to exhibit and archive. For some artists this has led to a kind of hybridization of Internet aesthetics and real world objects, such that they might be purchased or viewed in a real-world setting such as a museum or gallery space. For others it becomes a matter of the careful curation of digital images and documentation in an effort to brand oneself and build cultural capital where there is little possibility for financial compensation. After all, how do you monetize an object whose natural setting is a networked space that encourages many-to-many distribution practices? How do you sell a website, a .jpeg? These are responses to a crisis in image making and distribution in which older curatorial models that rely on the limitations of physical space and the exchange of physical objects are increasingly undermined by distanced, virtual, and distributed viewership online.

For art collective JOGGING - artists Brad Troemel and Lauren Christiansen - this crisis is not limited to Internet art, but has instead become the normative condition under which art is produced and viewed today.

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Frameworks, Crowdfunding, Cassandra and Undocumented Wind Instruments

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Now that everyone is out of business cards and has had enough time to check in to their locative media apps, I think we can begin to make sense of the social and technological deluge that was the South by Southwest Interactive festival. After being deep in a web development hole for the past few months, what I took away from the conference was a rejuvenation of critical, big-picture questioning, a reminder of just how drastically technology is contouring contemporary society and culture and that, ultimately, it is still in our hands to determine the overall shape of things to come. Although a late arrival and scheduling conflicts prevented me from hearing everyone I'd have liked to have heard (Douglas Rushkoff, Gary Vaynerchuk, among many others), I was able to take in most of the keynote speakers and the panels whose subject had some impact or connection to the arts (which were few). Here is a synopsis of the projects, presentations, and people that resonated with me the most.

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TODAY, TOO, I EXPERIENCED SOMETHING I HOPE TO UNDERSTAND IN A FEW DAYS (2010) - James Coupe

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A site-specific artwork that auto-generates films based upon narrative data collected from Facebook profiles. Using a combination of status updates, YouTube uploads and video portraits, the work looks at people in Barrow-in-Furness from a range of different perspectives, each one a form of surveillance.

The project uses status updates and demographic profiles, from Facebook users who live in Barrow, to automatically generate video narratives. Data from Facebook is combined with related footage from YouTube and selections from a database of video portraits to create one new video each day. The result is a dynamic snapshot of how we fit into the network of stories that we participate in every day. The videos evolve to keep pace with how we change, both individually and collectively.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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t+7 (2009) - Daniel Jones

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t+7 is a Twitter adaptation of the classic n+7 text procedure concocted by the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle) group. Each substantive noun in a text is systematically substituted for the noun found 7 places after it in a dictionary, creating peculiar mutations of the original prose.

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Social Vibration (2009) - Dana Gordon

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A garment that bridges between our life in the real physical world and our web 2.0 increasing social activity. The hoodie can recognise other hoodies from same or related “social network”. In case a member of the same online community is present in the same physical space (around 10 meters), the hoodie activates a subtle vibration, announcing this presence to the wearer in a discreet manner.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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SNOWSTORM (2010) - Mark Beasley

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Required Reading

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Never mind that the decade really ends in a little over a year, it's time to take stock of it. Today's post looks back at the decade just past while tomorrow's will look at the decade to come.

As I observed before, this decade is marked by atemporality. The greatest symptom of this is our inability to name the decade and, although commentators have tried to dub it the naughties, the aughts, and the 00s (is that pronounced the ooze?), the decade remains, as Paul Krugman suggests, a Big Zero, and we are unable to periodize it. This is not just a matter of linguistic discomfort, its a reflection of the atemporality of network culture. Jean Baudrillard is proved right. History, it seems, came to an end with the millennium, which was a countdown not only to the end of a millennium but also to the end of meaning itself. Perhaps, the Daily Miltonian suggested, we didn't have a name for the decade because it was so bad.

-- EXCERPT FROM "A DECADE IN RETROSPECT" BY KAZYS VARNELIS

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It's time for my promised set of predictions for the coming decade. It has been a transgression of disciplinary norms for historians to predict the future, but its also quite common among bloggers. So let's treat this as a blogosphere game, nothing more. It'll be interesting to see just how wildly wrong I am a decade from now.

In many respects, the next decade is likely to seem like a hangover after the party of the 2000s (yes, I said party). The good times of the boom were little more than a lie perpetrated by finance, utterly ungrounded in any economy reality, and were not based on any sustainable economic thought. Honestly, it's unclear ...

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Top 5 - 10

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The World Series Of 'Tubing - Jeff Crouse & Aaron Meyers

Greg J. Smith is a Toronto-based designer with an active interest in the intersection of space and media. He is co-editor of the digital arts publication Vague Terrain and blogs at Serial Consign.



Five 2009 projects that deal with the translation of online experience into environments, events, artifacts and performance.

► World Series of 'Tubing - Jeff Crouse & Aaron Meyers
The everyday action of "favoriting" online media is expanded into a participatory game show (video above). A pair of contestants square off by selecting viral videos from YouTube and this media is "played" in an augmented reality card game where a live audience determines the victor. (see Paddy Johnson's adventures as a contestant)

► What my friends are doing on Facebook - Lee Walton
The ubiquitous status update is used to inspire an ongoing series of charming short videos. Banal announcements, everyday routine and the inhabitation of domestic space make for surprisingly entertaining vignettes. (see Walton's vimeo channel to access the entire series and Marisa Olson's writeup from February)

► WOW PoD - Cati Vaucelle, Steve Shada and Marisa Jahn
An architectural testament to the "shut in" tendencies within MMORPG culture, this project creates a playspace that addresses the needs of the player and their avatar. A built in toilet, cookware and food dispensers are hardwired into the World of Warcraft interface underscoring the dedication/obsession demanded by these types of online communities. (See the video documentation of the piece)

► Bicycle Built For 2,000 - Aaron Koblin and Daniel Massey
Updating the 1962 experiment in speech synthesis by John Kelly, Max Mathews and Carol Lockbaum, this project employs the Amazon Mechanical Turk webservice to outsource the production of molecular elements of the song Daisy Bell. The resulting 2,088 voice recordings are reassembled into a strange, bumbling chorus - is this what the future of labor sounds like? (see Peter Kirn's analysis)

► Are you human? - Aram Bartholl
Riffing on the scrambled aesthetics of the CAPTCHA challenge-response test, this project creates real world artifacts out of online protocol. These text objects are deployed in the gallery, as identity document business cards and (most interestingly) on the street amongst the "urban markup" of tagged surfaces.(see photographs of the sculptural objects in the gallery and out in the wild)

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