Michael Connor
Since 2002
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America

Now you can finally experience what it's like to commodify yourself on the internet

Last year, Rhizome awarded a $500 microgrant to Lena NW and Costcodreamgurl to create a game "that parodies celebrity status games (i.e. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood... but focuses on the concept of becoming an internet celebrity via social media." Their game is now here, and it carries with it one hell of a trigger warning: "graphic sexual violence, cultural appropriation, scat, bestiality, feminism, patriarchy, sexualization of school shooters, inconsistant use of fonts." Click here to play.

From the artists' statement:

Required Reading: Empathy & Disgust


Distaste or disgust involves a rejection of an idea that has been offered for enjoyment.

—Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, 1798

For the first time, this year's Seven on Seven will have an overarching theme offered to participants as a provocation: Empathy & Disgust.

Scene from Her

We chose this theme partly because of recent discussions about "affective computing," which aims to detect and respond appropriately to users' emotions. The field gained some visibility after the release of Spike Jonze's Her; writing for Rhizome, Martine Syms argued that the film could be read as "an elaborate product spec" for intelligent agents that can replace human relationships. Recently, a new crop of apps that function as "Intelligent Personal Agents" bring us a step closer to this future, while a more speculative app from Blast Theory offers a fully-fledged emotional relationship with a virtual character who gradually reveals herself to be "needy, sloppy, piteous, and desperate."

Some of the real-world research underpinning emotional analysis was discussed in New Yorker piece earlier this year, focusing on the work of Affectiva and scientist Rana el Kaliouby. The company is developing a tool called Affdex that can "make relable interences about people's emotions" based on video monitoring:

During the 2012 Presidential elections, Kaliouby’s team used Affdex to track more than two hundred people watching clips of the Obama-Romney debates, and concluded that the software was able to predict voting preference with seventy-three-per-cent accuracy.

Grappling with complexity, women in tech, and Leonard Nimoy: Perry Chen's Y2K

Screenshot of Leonard Nimoy in Y2K Family Survival Guide (1999). 

In December, Perry Chen organized a panel discussion at the New Museum (copresented with Rhizome and Creative Time Reports) exploring the phenomenon and legacy of the Y2K bug, as part of his ongoing project Computers in Crisis. Along with a presentation of books and video clips from the time, he assembled three Y2K experts to share their own experiences of preparing for 1/1/00, at which point many computer systems were expected to interpret the two-digit date as "1900" rather than "2000," with harrowing results. 

Ana Maria Uribe, Anipoems

 Ana Maria Uribe, Escalera 3 (1999).

Ana Maria Uribe (1951-2004) was an Argentine visual poet who made work online beginning in 1997 after working in other media for many years. When she passed away in 2004, Jim Andrews (who runs Visual Poetry website vispo.com) posted a moving tribute to her work on Rhizome's mailing list, including this quote in which she recounts her formative experiences as a poetry: 

I started with visual poetry in the late 60's after seeing some of Apollinaire's poems and Morgenstern's "Night Song of the Fish". Shortly afterwards I met Edgardo Antonio Vigo, who was then editing a magazine called "Diagonal Cero", devoted to visual poetry and mail art, and other poets such as Luis Pazos and Jorge de Lujan Gutierrez. They all lived in La Plata, a town which is 50 km from Buenos Aires, where I live, and we communicated by ordinary mail, either because there was a shortage of telephones at that time or to save costs, I don't remember which. I still keep some of the letters...

At a moment when many artists are again considering the medial qualities of poetry, Uribe's work seems well worth revisiting, particularly because (as Andrews noted, of her CD-ROM works) it reflected an understanding of "the poem on the screen as a performance." In the works, text is generally used pictorially (as with the ladder made of capital H's in the Escalera series), and rotated or otherwise manipulated to introduce a sense of motion into the scene. In the Rebote series, for example, the dots of lowercase i's bounce around playfully:

Required Reading: Paul Soulellis on Experimental Publishing

Image: Scott Gelber

It may seem odd to cite a syllabus as required reading, but this RISD class on Experimental Publishing offers a cogent way of thinking about what instructor Paul Soulellis, after de Certeau, calls the "scriptural economy." 

Let's begin with the post, exposing its origins as a physical note publicly nailed to a piece of wood. Its descendants persist today, plainly visible on the wall, in the feed and in the stream as traces of a deeper history of documents — the scriptural economy. Is posting (always) publishing?

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Feed my Feed: Radical publishing in Facebook Groups

Not really - but I'm using the term public utility in the usual sense of a body that provides something like water or gas to the public, but may be privately or publicly owned. (A NYC example: Con Ed).

If we're talking about publicly owned utilities, then yes, that is something different. I am really interested in the idea of software as publicly owned utility--this is something that was discussed at our recent event with Airbnb Pavilion.

It would be great to see more sharing "economy platforms" run as public utilities, since those often have a very direct economic impact on a city. My sense is that Facebook would be kind of a poor use case for public ownership - but it is interesting to think of as a public utility in the sense of a private company that provides public infrastructure & service and therefore has some level of public accountability.


Feed my Feed: Radical publishing in Facebook Groups

The other consideration I raised was whether the profile was being used for publicity purposes. The larger point there is that not all contexts are created equal, and so violating their integrity can be more or less justifiable.

Again, not commenting on the specific situation but rather the general case: there is a difference between communication that takes place via a profile that is only shared with close friends and the communication that takes place via a profile that is shared with journalists and used for publicity purposes. In the latter case, the contextual integrity violation could be much easier to justify even if the public interest case is relatively weak.


Feed my Feed: Radical publishing in Facebook Groups

It is a mistake to rely too much on what is technically public or private to guide decision-making about whether to respect the contextual integrity of any communication. Hilary Clinton's emails as Secretary of State are technically private, but have no legitimate claim to remaining so. Many Facebook users might accidentally set posts to "public," without intending for them to be shared widely. And even users on the very public Twitter have felt violated, and perhaps rightfully so, when their posts were shared onto other platforms.

Another term I like, since public and private get quite fuzzy, is "contextual integrity," as articulated by Nissenbaum. The idea there is that communication is often intended for a specific context, and when it remains only in that context, then it has integrity. When it is moved to a different context, that integrity has been violated.

A blog posting a screenshot of an artist's Facebook post would certainly be a violation of the artist's contextual integrity--but that doesn't mean it's always indefensible. There might be a strong public interest argument to share the post, and blogs have a responsibility to their publics which might outweigh this consideration. If an artist uses social media as part of the publicity surrounding a work, that might even be crucial for understanding the work, then that also could make it more OK to share.

These questions are very important for our current dynamic web archiving efforts...very tricky stuff.


Feed my Feed: Radical publishing in Facebook Groups

Your examples of the "missing" sense of the term public are all spaces. A more apt analogy for Facebook would be a public utility. Public utilities can be privately owned or publicly owned, they are not necessarily characterized by "mutual ownership" - only by public oversight. And such oversight is only likely to emerge through the organization of users themselves, very possibly with the platform itself as an organizing tool.


Feed my Feed: Radical publishing in Facebook Groups

Thank you for doing such a good job illustrating the impoverishment of commenting culture outside of Facebook! You really captured the patronizing tone of a commenting demographic that feels its relevance waning in the age of social media. What were your inspirations for this pastiche?