On any given day, the average web user may log into as many as a dozen different social web services. Interaction with these sites could involve any number of activities including browsing photography, commenting on blog posts, planning trip itineraries, looking for a lover or updating a resume. While the sequential (or parallel) manner in which we navigate these databases and the generic aesthetic of the web 2.0 interface might suggest these sites form a unified network, that is simply not the case. In engaging the social web we voluntarily fragment our interests, social ties and demographic information in order to make them "machine readable" and allow us to participate in these communities. With these rules of engagement in mind, several recent projects speak to these conditions and explore the notion of web inventories in relation to identity, aggregation and as binding legal agreements.
"We are living in interesting times," science fiction author Charles Stross observed on his blog last week. "In fact, they're so interesting that it is not currently possible to write near-future SF." The makers of Superstruct, a new project created by the Institute for the Future, would disagree. The IFTF has launched what they're calling "the world's first massively multiplayer forecasting game;" in it, players are asked to imagine themselves ten years from now, then flesh out the details of that near-future world through posts to a wiki, discussion forums, Facebook, Superstruct's own site, and elsewhere. But players won't be creating this collective vision of tomorrow from scratch: the game provides a core set of hot-button issues that need to be addressed in 2019 -- couched as reports from the Global Extinction Awareness System -- which include a growing pandemic, the immanent collapse of the world's food supplies, power struggles over energy sources, and the "diaspora of diasporas" of displaced masses. Using a speculative fiction to ask thousands of users to cobble together potentially useful solutions to very real problems, Superstruct can be seen as an online variant of alternative reality gaming, juiced up with elements of crowdsourcing, prediction markets and the collaborative authorship of expanded universes. The very premise of this new mutation in science fiction writing says a great deal about what we think about our own life now in these interesting times: the future is not so much a brave new world to be explored, but a complex problem to be solved. - Ed Halter
Curated by artists Caspar Stracke and Gabriela Monroy, Brooklyn's video_dumbo, a festival of the electronic moving image in all its various forms, debuts its 2008 edition tonight-- right up against another event that will be filling video and computer screens worldwide, the first US presidential candidate debates. Meeting that programming challenge, Stracke and Monroy have organized Hack the Debate in 3D!. Thanks to some help from sponsors Current and Twitter, the event will include an ongoing Twitterized comments feed integrated into three-dimensional projection of the live debate -- and, as the curators remind us in their program notes, "ironically, this stereoscopic system is based on the colors RED and BLUE." The rest of video_dumbo's enticing lineup includes the premiere of in complete world by Shelly Silver and two full days of new work by an intergenerational array of media artists, including Phyllis Baldino, Mike Hoolboom, Scott Pagano, Torsten Z. Burns and Darrin Martin, eteam, John Michael Boling and Javier Morales, Nicolas Provost, Sharon Hayes, PFFR and scads more. With the recent fading-away of the New York Video Festival and other like-minded Manhattan events, video_dumbo seems to carry on the necessary tradition of the smartly-organized theatrical festival. - Ed Halter
Designer/researcher Greg J. Smith has curated an online exhibition that surveys twelve of the most influential mapping-related new media projects of the last ten years. "City of Nodes" is the 21st show presented by CONT3XT.NET, who use social bookmarking site del.icio.us as a platform for their TAGallery. The sites Smith selected actually skim the longstanding relationship between tagging and urban studies, with a focus on cartography and locative media. In his curatorial introduction (in this case, a "tag description"), Smith synthesizes Lewis Mumford's late-1930s conception of the city as "a nexus of social, creative, and economic collaboration," in contrast to William J. Mitchell's '90s era take on cities as including "not only asphalt and concrete, but bandwidth, code, and connectivity." This is the filter through which the twelve selected projects are viewed. They include the seminal Amsterdam Realtime (2002) project by Esther Polak and Jeroen Kee (the Waag Society) in which GPS devices worn by volunteers create a comparative portrait of the personal occupation of the city; iSee (2005), the Institute for Applied Autonomy's web-based program for locating CCTV cameras throughout a city and planning your travel route accordingly; and One Block Radius, Dave Mandl and Christina Ray's (a.k.a. Glowlab's) psychogeographic documentary of the immediate neighborhood surrounding what was then the future site of the new New Museum building. Given that so many of the selected projects are about tracing a collective experience, the folksonomic curatorial platform seems a perfect one on which to contemplate the work, with guest-curators' tags suggesting an interpretation before inviting viewers to travel off on their own. - Marisa Olson
Image: David Rokeby, Seen, 2002
This week, critic Ben Davis wrote an interesting treatise on "The Superartist." Davis uses the term to describe those artists who are super savvy at penetrating the media, and become superstars by virtue of their collaborations with big corporations and work in mainstream contexts. His argument was that so-called 'Superart' has a populist touch, and appreciation of the work tends to be an appreciation of being part of a collective, as opposed to an individual, aesthetic experience, just as the works themselves tend away from personal statements and towards blank social referents. As it turns out, this could be a very good critique of Lincoln Schatz's newest project, Esquire's Portrait of the 21st Century, in which the generative artist uses his own custom software to create an evolving portrait of those 75 people the magazine has deemed the most important people of the coming decades...Just in time for Esquire's 75th anniversary issue. Schatz has constructed a "CUBE," the white frosted glass walls of which very much resemble a Chelsea gallery facade except that the structure is studded with video cameras and Mac minis. The stars in question are invited into the cube for hour-long interviews about their personal interests, after which they are generatively collaged into an evolving constellation with other stars, according to their shared interests. In a tried and true display of the magazine's firm grasp of 21st century media, Schatz is keeping a blog in which the portraits are uploaded. So far, the footage is very beautiful and almost painterly in the ways that it overlaps and meshes together. It's easy to create corporate collaborations as sell-out projects, but harder to spend the time thinking about a work's wider resonance. The artist's bio says that his work "has focused ...
From the artist's statement: 4,007 photographic images (one for each ten Kilometers of the earth's circumference) were sourced from photo sharing websites. The images, largely holiday snaps, were cropped to exclude any geographical, architectural or other reference points and the resulting images re-scaled (so that the horizon ran directly through the center of the frame) before being ordered on a time-line according to color. With the images being sourced from unknown locations across the globe, the work aims to document an imaginary line, which ultimately describes the curvature of the earth.
Organized by project.arnolfini, "antisocial notworking" is an online hub for critical and creative practices appraising the contradictory agendas of many of the internet's most popular websites. As Art & Social Technologies Research member Dr. Geoff Cox persuasively argues, in an essay accompanying the project, websites like Facebook and Myspace have amassed tens of millions of users through a promise of providing virtual spaces built upon user-generated content and geared towards positive interpersonal relations. While a peer-to-peer (p2p) system engages the same democratic project in the web's public realm, these social networking sites exist in the private sector, operating through a top-down, server-client relationship with its membership and harvesting social relations towards their own economic benefit. 'antisocial notworking' does not propose abandoning these programs, but rather seeks to elucidate the process by which social positivity became a marketable tool of capitalistic enterprises, and to consider how antagonism (to Cox, a necessary component of politics) may be constructively introduced into the virtual demos. Notable among the current projects on the site is Linda Hilfling's "Participation 0.0 - Part I" (2007), documentation of the 112 billboards the artist installed throughout "Second Life" that collectively display the full 7,000 words of the Terms of Service which users traditionally skim and agree upon before gaining access to the program. By planting this text on "Second Life" land, Hilfling allows users to recognize their tenuous position in a virtual world in which they may develop businesses and purchase land, but from which they may also be erased, according to Hilfling's reading of the terms, "for any or no reason." In keeping with its critical agenda, "antisocial notworking" will retain a dynamic, open-ended structure, to which people can add further texts, projects, and documents of their own navigation through similarly fraught online ...