Heidi completed her MFA at the University of British Columbia and is currently pursuing a PhD, examining the relationship between networked art practices and contemporary art pedagogy. Heidi has exhibited artwork in Canada, published writing in leading art magazines and has presented papers in Canada, the United States, and Italy. She has been an instructor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver since 2002 and has also taught at Langara College, Simon Fraser University and UBC. Her experience with online curriculum at Emily Carr University of Art + Design has inspired her to research the philosophy of internet technologies through both visual and textual means.
As I wait patiently for my copy of Digital Folklore, I found the preface of the book (http://digital-folklore.org/) to be a helpful resource related to the above conversation between Ry and myself. Seems key to understanding where the authors of the book are coming from...
I’m searching for interesting contemporary works/projects that use the internet (specifically social media) as a tool for generating information/knowledge about either its viewer/participant/user (individual or community), or perhaps challenge this notion. I am particularly interested in artists that are combining online technologies with self-reflective practices (either self-reflection of the artist or self-reflection of the viewer/participant/user). Also interested in non-digital works that explore these ideas.
Such works might relate to:
Rachel Perry Welty
Any ideas? Please share…
Re: "The end-user is a concept in software engineering, referring to an abstraction of the group of persons who will ultimately operate a piece of software (i.e. the expected user or target-user)...
A couple of years ago I was involved with co-designing and co-teaching a "Human Factors" course in a communication design program. The idea was to have it split between an instructor with usability experience (designing products for Microsoft and other recognized companies) and an instructor with experience teaching visual perception and communication concepts, which would be me. The main project in the course was to develop a "product" considering the full "end-to-end" experience. Now, my background is purely fine art, however, at this point I had been teaching colour and visual communication concepts within a couple of graphic and electronic design programs at this school. When I signed on to develop this Human Factors course, I was just beginning a PhD in art education, reading all sorts of curriculum theory, getting into philosophical hermeneutics, etc. My fellow instructor didn't really understand why I would question the application of a User Centered Design (UCD) or question where she was pulling all of the terminology from. The idea of a course that tried to "round out" and perhaps "disrupt" a "user-centred" approach to design sounded interesting on paper, but it turned out I didn't have enough time to actually split the class and ended up only teaching a few sessions. I actually got excited about getting students to critically analyze the language used in product design (we spent half a class discussing what a "user" was and having them get more into the psychological and sensory experience of their users/participants/viewers/readers). My approach was perhaps more conceptually creative than what the program director originally had in mind (not sure).
Re: “In certain projects where the Actor of the System is another System or a Software then it is quite possible that you do not have an end user for your system. And the end users for the system, which is an actor for yours', would be indirect end users for you.”
Love this…It’s complexity theory and relational aesthetics, all combined into one.
Re: “Sometimes I think our base fear of the systems is what prevents us from truly understanding them.”
I think this is essentially what McLuhan was trying to say about our understanding of technology. He argued that we need to recognize that technology is in fact an extension of the human body, an extension of ourselves. In recent writings, Richard Cavell has applied this theory to digital communication, reiterating a significant point from McLuhan’s often undervalued theories - in any communication, it is the sender who is sent.
With my own work and writings, I am interested in how digital technology might prevent or enable us to better understand ourselves…but it seems the task is for us to first understand the reflection of ourselves within the technologies we use to communicate with one another. If you can know of creative works out there that address any of these ideas, I would love to know about them. I’m building an archive to refer to in my research and writing and am inviting people to email me or post to my blog http://heidimay.wordpress.com/.
I really like where you are going with this...
I am also interested in the role language plays in how we perceive and understand the technologies we use and the relationships we have with them. Although I feel like I need to have read the Digital Folklore Reader to really comprehend the reviewer's interpretations (now tempted to spend the money on shipping from the UK!), the review along with your response provide much food for thought....
Perhaps by applying 'user' terminology to our experiences with the internet we are setting ourselves up to be 'used''? Does it also place more emphasis on physical vs. psychological acts of being? When we hear the word 'use' do we first think of the physical, concrete world over an imagined reality? Language can hold us back from meaningful understanding, thus meaningful creative responses to those understandings. Your example of ID as a substitute for user is quite interesting....Now that interacting with computers has become an ubiquitous act to everyday life, maybe we need to alter the language we use to describe these experiences. How might our understanding of these experiences and ourselves change if we were to call ourselves 'participants' and 'players' acting on or within rather than 'users' or 'subjects' of the digital world. Of course, this all relates to Bourriaud's discussion of "relational aesthetics," which actually goes back to Gadamer's hermeneutic inquiry into "play"....
In simpler terms, I am wondering if we need to incorporate some philosophical understanding into our study of these digital devices we use??
In response to your main question, No...being a computer 'user' is not unique when considered within a larger historical context. The problem is that the word 'user' limits our understanding of digital technology to that of the 'user' being 'used' as you have pointed out. Warren Sack, when writing about 'network aesthetics' in relation to art on the internet, wrote that the word 'network' immediately conjures up ideas of a computer so that peoples' minds can not move beyond the concrete technology to think about the abstract relations. I think it's the same thing with 'user'...we think of products, marketing and corporate control and the 'self' becomes multiplied into morphed into digital entities.
I guess after your post I'm left thinking...how can we expand on this language to be understood. I am also very much reminded of McLuhan's notions of technology not only being an extension of the human but being human. Now...we can't just change 'user' to 'being' so, until then, I guess we just need to make work that explores this conundrum...
I am also just playing in the realm of unedited commentary...:)
I joined Twitter at the end of January. Another excuse for the time lapse in reflective posting? Perhaps.
Similar to my venture into Facebook, this was also a long time coming. Contrary to what the majority of my friends and colleagues have to say, I personally haven’t really been won over by Twitter. I am definitely in favour of it as a tool for opening up lines of communication globally and any kind of alternative source to mainstream news media, but in terms of staying connected to my multiple selves and generating a sense of connection with my ‘followers’…it just hasn’t happened yet.
Many people prefer Twitter’s more open platform over the more relationship-focused Fbook – the fact that you can ‘follow’ people without them necessarily ‘following’ you. Many people think the technical structure of Fbook is messier and more complicated than it needs to be. In terms of information distribution, I find Twitter to be more surface-level and quantity-based, however, this isn’t to say that it doesn’t lead you to deeper levels of information, because it does indeed do that.
My lack of excitement could be because Twitter doesn’t seem to be designed for dialogue, but rather an encyclopedia stream of fast-paced communication, meant to be retweeted from one person to the next. On many levels, Twitter is a great tool but if I were to imagine it as a physical environment and atmosphere, it would be very noisy and constantly shifting. Facebook, on the other hand, is not necessarily somewhere where I would suggest to take your first date, but the visual thumbnails do spruce up the walls a bit… even if it’s all a warm disguise for the corporate building just beyond the screened facade. At least Fbook is designed for threaded conversations where ideas can emerge in between ‘friends’…but then again, perhaps it depends on who your ‘friends’ are – if all your ‘friends’ do is tend to farms and read their horoscopes, than I’d suggest you hop on over to Twitter to see what everyone else is thinking about. But be prepared for the mental shock to your networked system…
Just as I was settling into the twitterverse, a friend and fellow Postselfer suggested I might want to check out Empire Avenue — “the social stock market game!” She warned me that it could be perceived as a disturbing angle on social media, yet might be a strangely effective way to do social networking. Since I had already worked up the nerve to embrace Twitter, I thought I should join right then. Not even five minutes later I had someone asking me to connect to all of my social networks. This freaked me out so I adjusted my settings a little bit to retreat back into more of a voyeuristic role. Since I’m quite dumb when it comes to the real world stock market, I don’t anticipate becoming very savvy with this virtual one but it has been interesting to think about it through more of a philosophical lens — “Buy shares in your friends, family, favorite movie stars, musicians, businesses – anyone – and earn virtual cash for wise investments! Become a virtual millionaire!”
It’s also interesting to see someone else create a project which takes a completely different spin on the “value” of identity with/in social media…
This is definitely an entry for Sorry, I Haven’t Posted, a blog which re-posts posts of people apologizing for not posting to the internet…aka “Inspiring Apologies From Today’s World Wide Web”….
So….it’s been a while, how have you been? how’s your networking? how’s your self? Ever notice when you let something slide for awhile and then go to do it again, just how strange it feels and how hesitant you are with every move? I’ll just try and jump right in but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with several entries already planned.
I don’t like skipping more than a month on here, I feel out of sorts when I do. I started feeling guilty at the beginning of March, and a little depressed that I wasn’t staying on top of it. Although I was still keeping track of ideas to reflect on throughout March and April, as each day passed it became more and more difficult to face things from behind. For these reasons, I have backdated this entry, along with several others to follow between then and now. I even feel guilty about backdating…but it’s not as if I haven’t been thinking about my self in network…I’ve made lots of notes…really, I have.
Posting to the Facebook portal is easy since I often don’t include more than a link or a simple thought, mainly so I don’t forget about it and can hopefully return back to reflect some more. In fact, I encourage you to “like” the portal on FB so that you can get updates and stay connected…but, if you’re like I was just over a year ago, you are a conscious resistor to the social network, and, well, that’s ok…you do what you need to do in order to survive.
Ken Lum, Mirror Maze with 12 Signs of Depression (2002-2011), Vancouver Art Gallery
….. > < ….. > < ….. > < ….. > ….. < > …..
James Lindsay, Postselfer, Facebook Portal:
“This thing about the project being ahead of Postself (heidi) is significant because her ‘being behind’ is an internal demand to practise and perform her selfprojection, which is Postself; including, of course, formal writing required for the academic project, though that is a demand from *outside* Facebook. As a practising networked self, will Heidi always feel ‘behind’ by dint of the performative and collective aspects of Postself? She mentions it often, and her interest in procrastination gets a mention too,…Is this part of the performance?…is this part of being networked? And while Postself grows in bytes and meaning at her First Birthday, Heidi as artist tends and renders.”
case study: fbAD
by guest contributor Simon Taylor
[ font manipulation added by Postself | images: Aurel Schmidt's wiki page from Whitney Museum ]
I am interested in the idea of the performed self. Although it is not one, not the definite article, as soon as it is performed. I am interested because of the paradoxes that proliferate around the notion. I am interested because of the habit of thought whereby the self being called on to create or produce, the first thing it does is create a self or subject. I am therefore interested in the proximity between creation and performance.
There might be then selfish reasons to write anything here, to add my voice, as it were. It might also seem like blatant self-promotion to create and perform a self in fb, here. For me, I think it is almost report-worthy. Since, on the reactivation of my account several days ago, I have acted on every suggestion of friendship regardless of whether I’ve known or have ever met the person (or other) and in doing so have ignored the injunction to only send a friend request if I personally know the person (or other) to whom I’m sending it.
This is dishonest behaviour any way you look at it. It is not the behaviour of a friend. Perhaps I am not taking fb seriously? Maybe just publicity seeking? Am I guilty of manipulating these poor people (others) into thinking they have a friend when they are just numbers to me?
But then is fb a place of sufficient seriousness and honesty to make such a confession? Do you think? Is it a place at all? Or a place of ubiquitous displacement?
Because this also enters into the question of performing selves. It is not neither here nor there; it is here and there. Performance is a placing as well as an acting, but a placing in displacement, for which a there declares its nearness to a here, close enough to be in hearing – for the audience. With technological enhancement a hearing can take place over some considerable distance but not, however often you hear it, in absentia.
To make my case open and shut, I would like to present another’s, which is clearly not, not decisive, not at least in view of my own reportworthy misbehaviour, but furthers the problematic of self, creation and created self. This might be called the case of the lost family member, because we lost someone.
I mean ‘lost’ in the ‘lost contact’ and not the mortal sense, and in the sense that you speak of one succumbing to an addiction, the ‘substance’ of that addiction, moreover, being as substantial as it would be for any other; an assertion I’d like to substantiate here, because the susceptibility to becoming addicted to its habit tells us something about facebook. It also adds to the characterisation of fb as the future of the net in its function of Netopticon.
This person over approximately a year – a year less ordinary for having a greater share of emotional upheaval for her than others, particularly for her – loved fb, and used it at first to give expression to her taste in music, art, uploading videos and images, sharing and commenting on them, frequently updating her profile. Her investment of time and interest increased quite rapidly, to the extent that the outsider remarked the greater frequency with she was using fb and longer stretches she was online.
The insider remarked that she always seemed to be online and that she would comment compulsively, especially on her own posts, even if others were not doing so. The insider also noticed the halo of positivity surrounding her fb utterances as it grew more and more pronounced and things shone more and more brightly and positively. Certain insiders started to find her utterances odd, oddly uncommunicative, confrontingly gnomic at times and self-referential, despite the sunshiney attitude.
When the outsider remarked on her spending so much or even too much time fb-ing, just how great her emotional investment was became clear, to the point that she would remove herself and her laptop away from the vicinity of people she felt were critical of her behaviour. Difficult with family. When the insider challenged her online to defend the increasing eccentricity of her fb persona, she both took the argument offline, calling it a betrayal, and unfriended the critic. But the moment of the gulf becoming evident between her online ‘positive’ – Michael Jackson would call it ‘blanket’ – behaviour and her offline aggressive territorialism regarding a media network she made personal rather than social, the moment of there appearing a split between the two, was not the decisive one.
Because you’re right, of course, this did not look like the pathology of an addiction, just some online acting-out. Self-creation. New media infatuation. I began to think her activity had taken on a pathological dimension when she gave up fb. I was not around for the ‘break’ which some say occurred when she did, the screaming, tears, the as sudden descent into a depressive lethargy, but received a letter, an email, telling me a piece I’d written and posted at Square White World giving my reasons for having left fb several months earlier had been written to her, for her alone. I was allegedly talking to her. Same with another thing I’d written, Dear Visitor it was called.
She was off fb for several months and the addiction reasserted itself with a vengeance. To avoid the betrayals of possible critics, this time she adopted a new identity, made new friends, keeping only those whose interaction with her previous fb self had been affirming and uncritical.
To remove the threat of criticism offline, she removed herself from most of her familial relationships. Leaving home, in fact. Before she did, however, she gave a lengthy disquisition, a testimonial really, justifying her imminent departure. Preeminent among her reasons for leaving were that she had discovered she was an artist, was supported in this finding by the fb community, and required space to ‘go mad.’ I am an artist, she said. But I’ve not yet found my medium.
I suspected this last of being disingenuous in view of her fb activities. I was using facebook in a different way, she had said at the time she gave up. Cases of addiction – to fb particularly – often resort to this plea, of using the drug or having the habit in a different way, to maintain the appearance that there is and they have a choice. But what struck me and stopped me from commenting was the legitimacy with which such a claim could be made: I am an artist and fb is my medium.
With this case, I would like to add to or return to the image of the optic of a Netopticon its carceral property, and call it, in view of the prison which we are not said to be trying to escape only resist, a description of Stockholm Syndrome. The other side of the optic is obviously the desire to submit oneself to it. In its carceral incarnation as a gaze of permanent and global surveillance to which we apparently all fall victim, what else could the willing prisoner be said to be feeling but love for his guard?
Alex Gartenfeld writes about succumbing to the desire to be looked at as being the ultimate crudeness. Because there is this other side to the image of the Netopticon: the net offers a democratic theatre of participation and the desire to be seen takes on an ontological function. Witness here, also, Tiqqun’s Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young Girl, here. By way of contrast, Alain Badiou‘s categories of truth-procedurals, politics, love, science, art, seem positively comforting, existing out of reach of the representational system and neoliberalism‘s commercialisation of ideology, political, personal, paradigmatic, via art to advertising. Via the social to the self, by way of the ad.
~ Simon Taylor, http://squarewhiteworld.com
You think you know me. You think you know what is best for me. You think you know what I want. What are you basing this on?…my activities and interests, the things I make up in my profile, the things I link to in my status? Isn’t that a bit naive of you? Did you ask me what I want, what I need? No….you just decided for yourself, didn’t you.
Why do I continue to put up with this? What people must think of me sticking it out with you…the things they must be saying behind my back.
It’s not just me, you know. People are angry…I have Friends who are angry…and they are voicing their opinions of this recent change of yours, which, I must say, seems to be having a negative affect on your community. Some are taking it quite personally. I hope you really did do your research…I hope you thought this one out….
Yes, the little things are what we miss but, if you think about it, those little things speak volumes about the level of control you are taking from the users making up your environment. What if we want to arrange the order of the information we choose to provide about ourselves – are you going to let us have that option? Some people have decided not to play your little game, opting to remove the persona that once existed on his or her profile. Is that what you want – a bunch of faceless nodes in your network that rebel against the restrictive and formulaic design?
I’m sorry to have to take this tone with you. Things had been going well… You must know that I speak out of concern….out of….
I’m sorry, I just can’t continue with this conversation until I know that you are really listening.
Are you there Facebook?
To reflect on a networked self requires a well documented networked self…
Will we archive these digital documents of our selves? Or will we post them once to share and then move on? What I like about all of the recent user-friendly applications that have emerged on the social media scene, is that they make us look back at what we’ve done and at representations of our selves, even if for some selves this means a reduced version of a digital identity. But for how long will we pause, glance, look, watch and see these formulaic creations? Is anyone interested in thinking about them….critically? Compiling a year of status updates might provide a profound realization of one’s self, yes? Are we learning about ourselves in this process? Do we have the time to even engage in this kind of behaviour? Are you growing impatient while reading this list of questions? Are you wanting to move on to another soundbite?
:: self-data-portrait mined from the internet ::
…created using Personas by artist Aaron Zinman >
“In a world where fortunes are sought through data-mining vast information repositories, the computer is our indispensable but far from infallible assistant. Personas demonstrates the computer’s uncanny insights and its inadvertent errors, such as the mischaracterizations caused by the inability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name.” (credits)
November was busy. Needless to say, I am yet another apologetic blogger to use the good ol’ “sorry I haven’t posted” line… However, Postself headquarters is busting with lots of self-reflexive activity as the Fbook interface continues to provide many opportunities for dialogue and critique. For those of you who have digital profiles meshed within FB, you may want to catch up on the insightful interaction that occurs in our satellite location > http://www.facebook.com/postself < where relevant links and videos are being shared by fellow Postselfers.
Although I’ve been consumed with many tasks, I continue to live up to my manifesto on a daily basis. In fact, I am now finding that I tend to use Fbook as a strange kind of coping mechanism that contrasts what I am faced with on my other screen. At home, I work with a double screen set-up and I often go back and forth to Fbook when confronted with difficult work, the same way I venture to the kitchen for snacks. I also continue to maintain and archive my Postself “list” of anything and everything to revisit and expand upon later. Just this past week, several topics have made the blogosphere and entered into our FB portal discussions — namely, the cartoon profile campaigns that have popped up and emotional reactions to the new FB layout changes — plenty food for thought.
Speaking of archived lists….for some time now, I’ve been wanting to post about our relationship to Facebook as a digital archive — an archived database that is connected to and integrated within all of the other networked social media applications we use, such as Flickr, Twitter, Vimeo, Youtube, Tumblr, etc. For instance, I will often find myself ‘sharing’ something just to have the link made readily available in my profile and just in case one of my friends posts something in response that triggers an idea or another resource to follow up on. Because it seems I’m on Fbook so much, I tend to search through my archived links rather than venturing over to my delicious account.
This networked language we use today may be new, but the act of archiving one’s personal life is not. The internet, however, provides a multilinear process for us to use, consisting of interconnections to different locations for self-storage. A couple of years ago there was an art exhibit developed in San Francisco called “Self Storage,” which was inspired by the historical precedent of the Dymaxion Chronofile, a system that Buckminster Fuller devised to chronicle his life. I began thinking more about Fuller a month ago while preparing a paper for a conference. Then, just like anything significant and meant to be contemplated, his name kept popping up all over the place. I think Bucky Fuller was extremely far ahead of his time, with interests and behaviours quite relevant for our current cultural moment. It has been said that his life is the most documented human life in history…
From Stanford’s R. Buckminster Fuller Archive:
The centerpiece of the collection, in many ways, is the Dymaxion Chronofile, an exhaustive journal of Fuller’s trajectory from 1920 until his death in 1983. Fuller had been collecting clippings and artifacts since he was a child. But in 1917, he began a formal chronological file which he would later call the Dymaxion Chronofile. The Chronofile was a vast scrapbook that included copies of all his incoming and outgoing correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes and sketches, and even dry cleaning bills. Initially, the Chronofile was bound into handsome leather-backed volumes. In later years, to save space and expenses, the Chronofile was simply stored in boxes. By the end of his life, this exhaustive “lab notebook” of his life’s experiment amounted to 270 linear feet.
Fuller intended for the Chronofile to be a case study of his life in context, in which his daily activities were presented in parallel with developments in technology and society. In it, he at once traced the evolution of his own thoughts, relationships, and business ventures; and documented new inventions, trends, and technologies that were emerging on the broader level.
There’s already applications being produced that allow for FB interactions to be archived in books. Which makes me wonder how we might “selfpost” differently if we knew there was the potential of our digital identities to be preserved not only on paper but bound within a book.
* thanks to Postselfer Marianela for this Youtube clip