Getting to the “Meat” of the Matter…

Despite what my featured image says, I was, in fact, not feeling okay.

Hey~

I’m glad to report that I’m not yet dead. glad may be an overstatement but eh I’d like to get my M.A. first after all the trouble Unfortunately, though, I have been very sick for the past few weeks. Flu. Upper respiratory infection. 103 degree fever. Hacking every other minute. congestion. insomnia. The whole nine yards. It can really slow you down.

I tried my best to work through it. My alchemist mentor proved very helpful during this time. She’s a little rough around the edges but quite thoughtful and very resourceful. After I wrote about my ideas for what I want to focus on in the Field Guide and tweeted some inquiries @vladaslaughter, I was able to engage in some thoughtful discussion.

I think we were able to narrow down more of my focus. Also, we discussed the idea of being an “antibiotic” more than an exact cure (inspired, largely, by my recent stint on doxycycline hyclate helluva a drug). In regards to digital well-being, it may be more apt to think of our field guide as more of an antibiotic than a prescribed “cure”. We’re trying to alleviate symptoms rather than eliminate the infection (as that would kind of mean destroying the Internet???). Getting rid of the bad bacteria so the good bacteria can continue to do its job. Idk. It’s something we’re thinking of~

Vlada helped me refine my focus further by providing some insightful commentary on a very interesting article about initiating humane design for the web. I think this source will be beneficial if I can pursue the topic I’d like to. This source doesn’t place the entirety of the blame on users. Rather, it places much responsibility on corporations and governments to regulate social media and intervene in our interactions with it. Some may find this invasive but I do think some changes need to be made in order to mitigate some of our interactions with social media right now which are definitely contributing to why some of are veering towards performing our lives rather than living them.

Anyway, that’s about all for me this week. I’m going to get back to resting for the time being. Don’t want to work myself to near death again. Being unable to breathe made me realize that I kinda like being able to actually???

Share any thoughts you have about anything I’ve discussed down below~

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~Till next time~

Daily Digital Alchemies

I brushed off my poetry skills and shared a nice little work of book spine poetry this week (inspired by my new mentor).

Additionally, I shared how exactly “being on empty” has felt all week. Not great. 0/10 would not recommend.

I had another fun exchange with my mentor this week. Admittedly, this is a more fun exchange than one strictly about “business” but I do think it may be interesting to check out. Vlada’s snark may give mine a run for its money….

~Stay healthy all~

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Net Art & Self-Representation~

Hey ^.^ welcome back to my dark little corner of the web~

So, this week we explored the wonderful and burgeoning world of net art.

This is “born-digital” art that is created for and designed to be experienced online in a digital environment. That digital component is what delineates this kind of art from trad art. In many ways, this kind of art is liberated from the exhibition context of the museum in that the Internet becomes its gallery space. Of course, this creates some concerns over accessibility and privilege, which I have discussed before, but I would like to focus more on some of the interesting ideas being explored in net art projects in this post.

Particularly, I’m interested in how much of net art is exploring the presentation and representation of self in this digital age. In my bonus post this week, I discuss some projects like¬†Mouchette,¬†BODY ANXIETY, and Emilio Vavarella’s (@emiliovavarella)¬†Digital Skins¬†series which each explore different facets of self in creatively digital ways. What is most interesting to me about pieces that explore how digitization has affected self-representation and its aesthetics is the prismatic depictions so often utilized to convey a sense of the multi-dimensional. In her essay “Stories of the Self on and off the Screen“, Dr. Ruth Page discusses the fragmentary nature of self in the twenty-first century and how emerging digital mediums like Eliterature (which is arguably both literature and net art) are in a position to convey that “partiality”. Page emphasizes how the transmediality and multimodality of digital mediums allows for new narrative structures which are often non-linear. This non-linearity often mirrors real-world experiences of life. It’s interesting that digital mediums can, in some ways, provide more “realistic” representations of the experience self than trad formats. Neither is “better”, just different. Digitization has, in many ways, allowed for a diversity of perspective that can really be engaged with. Eliterature and net art really allow for a new perspective to become a whole experience.

I find these capabilities to be fascinating yet often overlooked. In class, we spoke of the “aura” of art and how digital/net art is often dismissed or placed second to trad/classical art because it is viewed as lacking some kind of “aura” that makes it “true art” (whatever the f*ck that means). I find this to be a rather pretentious view on art. The idea that a work of art must be a physical¬†thing viewed in a museum in order for it to be considered of artistic merit/worthy of transcendent thinking is rather limiting, to say the least. Also, it makes me wonder¬†who is art for? If it must be viewed in a museum or through some kind of institutional authority, this indicates to me that art is only for a select few and that people outside this select few are somehow incapable of properly appreciating it. i think there’s an elitist, perhaps imperialist hold-out, attitude here. Because net art is, in many ways, more democratized than other art forms and more accessible in that the threshold for participation in creating it is still rather low (basically have access to a computer), I think it receives unnecessary criticism from the art world and the “peanut gallery”. Somehow, because of digital intervention and the perception that digital mediums are somehow inherently imbued with less meaning, net art is viewed as¬†lesser than. Which is very sad considering how many really creative initiatives and works are being created using this technology (as mentioned above).

In our studio visit with digital artist Alex Saum (@alexsaum) this week, we talked a little about the depth of meaning that can be captured in a digital work. For example, her¬†E-Poetry collections explore issues of self, identity, and self-representation in the digital age in very multimodal, visceral ways. The performance of self online becomes her art, reflection on these mediums her practice. Art, life, and the digital are all in dialogue with each other in her works. Both the positive ways in which digital media allows us to extend ourselves and the negative ways digitization curtails authenticity online are explored in Saum’s work. These complex ideas and their intersections culminate in these beautiful and movies works of digital poetry. Her work really allows for a prismatic view of self and allow for reflection upon current practices of the presentation of self in online spaces. For example, in Saum’s poem “Ashes to Ashes #YOLO” (2018), the question “Where are the people?” is looped over a video of Saum filmed in the style of¬†Youtube¬†confessionals. This poem seems to be making a statement on the commodification of self in the twenty-first century and how self has become more of a product and a performance online than an actual lived experience. The confession here is that rather than online spaces allowing us to be more¬†real, they are allowing us to less authentically ourselves.

“The Democratic Value of Art Making” is one of my fave poems from the #SELFIEPOETRY collection. “We can’t all be poets but well all have literary value.” is such a f*ck you to the establishment and the institutions believe art and creative practices only have value if they’re profitable. More, it’s a f*ck you to the whole concept that you must have market value in order for you to be valuable. It’s a f*ck you to capitalism. Net art is such a f*ck you to capitalism~

This is an interesting concept proposed in not only Saum’s work but in Vavarella’s work and the work of many other digital artists. As states before, online spaces were supposed to democratize information, self-expression, and many other ideals. But, instead, they seem to have become these places where we can be anyone¬†but¬†ourselves, we can tell anything¬†but¬†the truth. Saum’s work seems to be connecting this bastardized democracy online to consumerism and the commodification of online spaces. Especially in the US, the digital world is fast becoming a for-profit enterprise which infringes upon the ideals of community and equity and the free-exchange of ideas that the Internet, for most of us, was founded upon. I view Saum’s work as spreading awareness of this but also as a kind of protest in that in the process of reflecting upon the practice of growing in-authenticity online, Saum is revealing truths about herself and her values which resonates with many of us. I think a lot of are against the commodification of online spaces and the¬†rise of “influencers”, of personalities/personages for profit. Everything else in the world is already so commoditized and we are so consumed by it. I think we all want a space where we can explore ourselves for our own sakes.

In this way, a lot of digital art and net art is commentary on consumer culture and the contemporary digital practice that is being sold to us. Some of it seems even to be a protest, a reassertion that we don’t have to be these fake people online, that the digital does not have to be associated with the fake. I think this is important work artist like Saum are doing. Even is Saum herself doesn’t necessarily see herself in her work (“Works of art are always representations. They aren’t¬†me.”) , her commentary on self-representation and its shortcomings is valuable in that it reminds us we¬†can¬†be real online if we want but we don’t have to¬†be¬†who we are online either. What is important is that¬†we¬†still hold onto a sense of self in this social media deluge and that we don’t let anyone decide our value for us.¬†The hustle some influencers have though is fascinating, their ability to make a brand of themselves demonstrative of some admirable ingenuity and creativity even if I have some ethical disagreements with the franchise.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed perusing my thoughts on the matter. If you want to hear me scream more about self-representation in the digital age, be sure to check out my thesis blog~

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Field Guide Contribution

As mentioned, be sure to check out my bonus post on different works of net art. I curated a small collection of works that focus on self-representation of many different kinds.

Daily Digital Alchemies

For one of my DDAs this week, I provided a small glimpse into a world without words and speculated about what the descent of that kind of nonsense would do to humanity. I hope you enjoy a taste of my dark, twisted sense of writing. I prefer to write darker, more nihilistic tales with tragic or unapologetically cruel characters ^.^ This kind of writing is more engaging and interesting to me~

For my other DDA, I came up with a taxonomy of sorts for a digital moth. Apparently, its Latin name translates to “skiing schoolgirl” so I played with that. I also sent out a request for a moth of my own but I’ve yet to hear back and, also, I hear the generator may be broken? Anyway, I tried~

Extras

In case you didn’t see this thread in #netnarr, @ronald_2008 and @dogtrax remixed my Twitter photo in some very cool ways.

And I returned the favor:

Both @dogtrax and I remixed our images using Lunapic. I suggested a DDA using the tool (which I hope goes over better than my other suggested DDA for creating a Cyper Punk name which was never published so idk I can only make suggestions~).

Also, I shared this interesting video on how the “meme-ification” of celebrity personage affects our own reality. I think it ties in rather well with our discussion around memes, net art, and self-representation in the digital age.

~Till next time~

Exploring Net Art~

Hello~

This week, we’ve begun to explore the emerging and fascinating world of Net Art. In order to help familiarize us with more of the purview of this field, we were asked to explore the works of different artists and collectives. (Heck yeah!)

I chose to explore the net art works of three very different people(?). Each work drew me to it for varied reasons. Mostly, I’m interested in how online spaces intersect with practices of identity construction so I gravitated towards works that explore that subject matter.

The first artist who’s work I looked at is one I am familiar with: Emilio Vavarella. For my thesis, I have explored some of his work. Of particular interest to me is his¬†Digital Skins¬†series. In this collection, Vavarella experiments with the manipulation of the human form in digital spaces. The purpose of this project seems to be exploratory. Vavarella seems interested in how digital spaces affect/challenge the boundaries of self and what is considered to be part of self. Interestingly, Vavarella also touches upon the idea of the skinwalker which is a creature from Navajo lore who was believed to be able to project themselves into your body and become¬†you¬†by just making eye contact. This ancient idea of identity theft is interesting to contrast against contemporary instances of the act which, also, often involve minimal contact with you but can have life-altering affects.

Of the importance of this project, Vavarella states, “In today‚Äôs network society, bodies have left that organic condition and are characterized by transient statuses: individuals have become di-viduals, data aggregates, samples, signals. The last boundary between us and the world, our skin, has become a transient membrane that changes along with the trans- and meta- human forms under it. The space that was occupied by the¬†skinwalkers¬†of the past has been taken over by infinite reconfigurations and mediations. What remains the same is that to be human still means to constantly shift through generative metamorphosis, corruptions, and de-generations that escape any clear categorization.”

I give this series a 10/10 and definitely recommend checking it out. I think it asks us to consider our evolving place in digital spaces and how digital spaces are changing our perceptions of self and what constitutes as self.

Toshiaki-2-PRINT-comp-e1454433469758 (evavarella)

 

Another work I explored is¬†Mouchette.¬†To me, this work really toes the line between art and Elit. I was interested in this work because it was described as a piece that explores issues of identity online. According to its entry in the Net Art Anthology, this is an interactive work that explores the fictional life of a young girl who is morbidly fascinated with topics such as suicide and death. (This work is inspired by a Robert Bresson film of the same name–which was based upon a Georges Bernanos book–in which a young teenage girl does commit suicide after a life of tragedy.) In this piece, you can respond to inquiries made by Mouchette (which means “little fly” in French) and kind of follow her oddly naive yet surprisingly serious thoughts. The text is often accompanied by grainy, provocative images that, at times, contrast with the textual content.

Honestly, I find the work to be morbidly fascinating in the same way that Jason Nelson’s¬†This is how you will die¬†is fascinating. As¬†Mouchette¬†precedes Nelson’s work, I wonder if any inspiration was drawn from it? That said, I do recognize that this work could be a little disturbing or triggering for some people (especially the feature where you suggest the best way for a 13 year old girl to commit suicide). I think being provocative and “edgy” is only part of the work’s purpose, though. More, I think the work is meant to be a reflective piece, one in which we can explore the darker parts of ourselves and our culture in order to better ourselves and our world. The digital aspect of the world seems also to ask us to consider how digitization affects the ways we relate to ourselves and our world.

I’m going to give this work an 8/10 because I feel like it really provides a meaningful experience in which users actively participate with others in the processes of identity construction.

2019-03-22 (3)

The last net art work I reviewed this week is the¬†BODY ANXIETY¬†project. I chose to review this work because the prescription of its purposes reminded me of the intent of the Guerrilla Girls collective. Essentially, both seek to challenge the male gaze of the world and, particularly, the male gaze of the female experience and the worth of that experience. The net art project seeks to accomplish this through female artists employing video and other digital mediums to capture their experiences and share them online. This project seems to be about changing the narrative around female identity in public spaces and, more, about reclaiming that identity by utilizing new spaces for diverse voices provided by the Internet. It’s about reframing female identity.

As a female-identifying person myself, I found this collective to be very powerful and inspiring. The featured approaches to gender expression are all so different and powerful in their own ways. I found May Waver’s contribution to be particularly compelling to me. The “glitchy” kind of replication she uses to distort her images reminds me of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe prints. I think Waver’s work, in some ways, re-imagines the mass production and commodification of the female experience in the digital age. It’s just a constant bombardment. The female form is used as an advertising tool so often we’re numb to it. Waver’s work explores how that affects our perspective on ourselves in our daily lives.

I give this collective a 9/10 because I think it provides an excellent lens on what the female experience is in the digital age. I think it’s focus on reasserting and a reclaiming a sense of sense from the so often toxic miasma of contemporary digital life is incredibly important.

For comparison

Some pictures of Guerrilla Girls work from my latest visit to the Brooklyn Museum of art.

I hope you enjoyed my perspective on these works and decide to check some of these pieces out for yourselves! Net art is definitely expanding what it means to not only create in the digital age but it means to be at this moment in time.

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~Till next time~

The One-Sided Looking Glass…

Hey~

This week was an interesting one for me. In class, we began delving into the selfie and into concepts around self-representation in the digital age. My fave topic~

Waxing Poetic on the Selfie (Take 50 Bajillion)

For those who may be unaware, my thesis project revolves around self-representation in the digital age. Specifically, I’m investigating this subject through a Neo-Dada lens, analyzing emergent forms of digital content creation as new forms of not only self-expression but also as representative of a resurgence of traditional Dada ideals. I think there is a case to be made for recognizing emergent forms of digital content like memes, gifs, shitposting, and, even, selfies as a kind of Degenerate Art 2.0 (check out that post). If you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts surrounding this subject matter, you can check out my thesis blog.

Anyway, self-representation and, by extension, selfies are a subject of hella interest to me. I’ve discussed my thoughts around the selfie at length here and here¬†and my bonus post this week is all about a¬†Vulture¬†article which explores the selfie medium as a new genre of art. To me, I believe recognizing the selfie as an art-form is not beyond reason. Though I personally think of the selfie as more of a communication tool and selfies as a¬† new kind of discourse, I do think there are plenty of attributes of the selfie that could qualify it as art.

To see how some artists are incorporating the selfie into their work, I recommend checking out artist Alex Saum’s¬†#SelfiePoetry¬†project. It is a collection of eight digital poems that, “explores the intertwining of two ideas: the untruth behind artistic or literary histories, and our (il) legitimacy to intervene them to create narratives that make teleological sense”. This is my favorite poem from the collection and it incorporates Saum’s own Instagram and selfies:

In addition to discussing our own thoughts about the selfie as contemporary citizens of the digital age, we also explored Erving Goffman’s¬†The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life¬†(1956). In class, we read the introduction aloud. In the introduction, Goffman discusses a myriad of issues complicating not just the presentation of self but the¬†performance¬†of self, which is something I find to be quite interesting. Personally, I do believe that the onset of digital technology has made life an increasingly performative experience. Because of social media, it”s accessibility, and the 24/7 news cycle, I do believe that a large percentage of people are¬†performing¬†life more than living it. That said, I find it interesting that this was a concern¬†before¬†digital technology. Goffman states, “I shall consider the way in which the individual in ordinary work situations presents himself and his activity to others, the ways in which he guides and controls the impression they form of him, and the kinds of things he may and may not do while sustaining his performance before them”. Essentially, as Shakespeare said, we’re all players and all the world’s stage.

If life has always been a performance, then, to me, digital means are just providing a new stage upon which to perform. The problem being that this stage is not only large but the audience as well. And, that audience is quite unforgiving in their critiques.

That said, bringing the scale back down, I tend to think of selfies in a more positive light. For me, at least, selfies have been a way for me to regain self-confidence as well as reclaim a sense of self. I’m in control of the viewer’s gaze when I take a selfie rather than at the mercy of it. I find that to be empowering as do many others. Some people, though, are critical about the empowering aspects of the selfie and argue that it is still a form of objectification. Or, mire, they argue that the selfie is simple vain and frivolous. Many people dismiss the selfie as being anything significant.

I think utter dismissal of the selfie is a very narrow-minded act. Also, I think that dismissing the selfie, which is a medium popularized by the constantly scolded Millennial generation, is a way to similarly dismiss Millennials and the notion that such an “irresponsible” and “shallow” could ever be responsible for anything meaningful. In my opinion, the dismissal of the selfie is a vilification of the Millennial generation. At least. I think dismissing the selfie is a symptom of a greater sociocultural problem.

Anyway, back to self-representation in the digital age. I feel that the selfie along with many other emergent forms of digital content expresses the partiality of self. At least, all of these different mediums together create this collage of self that communicates that self is so much¬†more¬†than any one thing. If anything, the #selfieunselfie project really emphasizes the performative qualities of the selfie but also how there is no one medium through which to express self. Even the¬†selfie is incapable of conveying any holistic sense of self. To me, this doesn’t indicate a shortcoming so much as it illustrates the complexity of self and the affordances digital technology provides to expressing this inherent but often irrevocable aspect of self: that self is prismatic and multi-faceted.

Overall, I think an exploration of the selfie reveals that it is not so simple a subject as many people think or would like to believe. As Goffman’s book indicates, self has¬†never¬†been easy to express or capture. In fact, so much of self seems to be dependent upon the interactions we have with each other, again, removing control of self from the equation. While the onset of the digital age has certainly complicated our relationship to ourselves and each other, I think it has also provided us with new opportunities to explore complexities that we yet to comprehend. More, new technology and creative uses of this technology, such as the selfie, allow us to experiment with our identities and explore how far we can extend who we are. The digital age may come with new problems for us but it also comes with new opportunities to shed light on who we are and who we can be. I think there is so much potential for us to be so much¬†more¬†than we ever thought possible.

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#SelfieUnselfie Project

Though I participated in the first round of the project already, I decided to make another entry. Personally, I wanted to see if there was any change in my thoughts or perspective since a lot of things have changed in my personal life between these two Makes. I don’t think much has changed in my core concepts but I do think my latter entry is more¬†raw, perhaps. I felt a little torn open writing it but it was a good kind of pain. Despite how often I talk about self and self-representation, I still find it incredibly painful to talk about myself and my own sense of self and what makes me feel¬†real. Please, excuse any of my posts if they seem a little too frenetic or otherwise anxious; this topic really takes a lot of energy for me to write about.

Discussing the #Selfieunselfie Project

Make: My Selfies Keep My Secrets

Daily Digital Alchemies

In my first DDA this week, I memed my cat, Dove. I took an origami class at my local library this week and learned how to make a little samurai hat which I promptly placed on Dove’s head when I returned home and snapped a pic of. In my DDA, I imagined what she must be thinking about the undignified gesture. (She is quite the diva–which I think means something coming from me >.>)

In my second DDA this week, I let my inner child loose >.< I hope my entry isn’t too uncouth~

My Annotations on the Goffman Article

~Till next time all you pretty people ;)~

Exploring the History of the Selfie~

So, I know this post wasn’t formatted¬†exactly¬†as suggested but I was in “the zone” and didn’t even think of writing this post as suggested. Sorry >.< Just know I contain plenty multitudes~

When it comes to discussing emergent forms of digital content creation, I think there are few more disputed or more controversial forms than that of the selfie. It has been vilified across the board, reaffirmed, vilified again, then reaffirmed….and so on. It appears we as a people can’t seem to make up our minds abut whether or not selfies are insignificant and vain or profound expressions of self and the experience of life in a finite form. (Perhaps selfies can be a little of both???)

Anyway, regardless of your personal feelings on the medium itself, I think many of us realize that selfies do constitute their own genre of sorts. There are standard conventions that guide selfie creation and proliferation as well as entire digital platforms designed to “house” these new artifacts. Most, if not all, of us can recognize a selfie when we see one. The specific purpose of the selfie may be subjective but we can all objectively identify a selfie as a selfie.

Some people, like myself >.>, have even begun to identify selfies as art.

In a¬†Vulture¬†article by Jerry Saltz, there is a case made for viewing selfies as their own distinct art genre, separate from the self-portraits of artistic tradition they have often been compared to. Saltz cites the cultivation of very specific conventions as well as the “cultural dialogue” selfies seem to engage in as prime evience for why selfies should be considered as their own artistic genre. In the article, Saltz states,

These [Selfies] are not like the self-portraits we are used to. Setting aside the formal dissimilarities between these two forms‚ÄĒof framing, of technique‚ÄĒtraditional photographic self-portraiture is far less spontaneous and casual than a selfie is. This new genre isn‚Äôt dominated by artists. When made by amateurs, traditional photographic self-portraiture didn‚Äôt become a distinct thing, didn‚Äôt have a codified look or transform into social dialogue and conversation. These pictures were not usually disseminated to strangers and were never made in such numbers by so many people. It‚Äôs possible that the selfie is the most prevalent popular genre ever.

According to Saltz, not only do selfies constitute as their own genre that is distinctly different from traditional self-portraiture but selfies also represent new forms of communication and socialization. Selfies are not just images, removed from a particular context. No, they are these very¬†present, immediate messages that have a kind of agency. Selfies can be responses or reactions or affirmations or assertions or any number of poignant forms of communication. Saltz states, “Selfies are our letters to the world. They are little visual diaries that magnify, reduce, dramatize‚ÄĒthat say, ‘I‚Äôm here; look at me.” Selfies are becoming not just an extension of our own language but almost a language unto themselves. Which is fascinating.

One one hand, selfies seem to be about self-representation and extending self beyond previously imposed finite limits but, with their increasing ubiquity, they are also becoming this cultural phenomenon that is able to express something about who we¬†all¬†are. Which, isn’t that what are¬†does? It speaks to something transcendent yet so visceral. Something we can almost touch, but can’t quite hold. Which, isn’t that what self¬†is?

The line between art and self is blurry, at best. Even if you don’t see selfies as particularly artistic or expressive, I think it’s fair to say that they are, currently, culturally significant. Which, to me, necessitates a need to look more closely at them and at what it is about selfies that resonates with so many people. What are selfies saying that we want to say? Or, that we want people to hear? What is in a selfie that is so important to share? Or, for those of us who keep our selfies private, what doe a selfie capture that is so important to save? I think these are all important questions and ones that are worthy of our investigation and consideration.

To dismiss selfies as simply trivial or frivolous or vain is to ignore what seems like the experience of more than half of the world. Like Saltz says, selfies are a way to communicate the experience of being here, of being me experiencing me in this very moment and how absolutely wild and unfathomable it is to exist. How can you ignore that???

It seems like a message that humanity has been trying to communicate for so long. It’s like some Thoreau-esque, transcendentalist bull. Just writing these words sounds like I’m trying to get at something¬†sublime. Something that is integral to the human experience but is ineffable. I’m not trying to say that selfies are a manifestation of the sublime or that they hold some secret to ultimate self-realization but they¬†could.¬†

I think it’s important that we continue to investigate the selfie and other emergent forms of digital content creation if for no other reason than because they are¬†us, they increasingly represent us. And, we’re important subjects.

Don’t you think so too?

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~Till next time~

Thoughts on Selfies

More Thoughts on Selfies

I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Until recently, I considered myself a selfie-queen. I would post pictures of myself daily on my social media feeds. The pictures made me feel confident and made me see myself as pretty. Despite the confidence I’m sometimes told I project, I’m actually quite self-conscious about my appearance. Growing up my skin was too pale and my nose too big and my freckles too blotchy and my teeth too crooked and… I grew up feeling like I was not enough. Posting selfies was a way for me to reassert control over my own narrative and reclaim a sense of self. Due to some personal reasons, I haven’t really posted a selfie in a while but I do still view them as these tools/conduits for self-renewal as well as self-reflection. They tell your audience that you are “feeling yourself” that day or¬†feeling¬†something about yourself or your life that you need to express in a way that can be witnessed.

In my selfie (left), I am pictured in the less-traditional-but-still-common full-body pose. My reflection in a mirror is the central focus. I am wearing all black which contrasts with my pale complexion and silvery-white-blonde hair. In my face, my blue eyes shine, the light from the window beyond the mirror catching the gleam in them just right. I clearly know my angles. This is not an amateur selfie. My pose is strong and my expression teasingly mysterious as my mouth is hidden behind my phone screen. At once, this image is a revelation and a secret. I’m someone, maybe–but¬†who?¬†Another rebel without a cause? A punk-rocker at her day-job? A girl who is deeply self-conscious about herself?

A selfie’s significance, I believe, lies in its utility.

For each one of us as individuals, it can be a tool through which we rebuild self-esteem and explore our own identities. A selfie can serve as a witness to who we are in a particular moment of our lives. But, this medium is a one-way mirror. What we see when we look at our selfies is not what everyone else sees. More, not everyone else has our own personal context. No, they only have their own contexts.

My selfies don’t reveal the many journal pages I’ve scribbled on over the years. They don’t reveal of the words within those pages, any of the poems I’ve written for people that I’ll never share, any of the memories I’ve caressed, any of the “I love you”s or “I miss you”s. My selfies don’t share the drowsy dreams drawn nor the faint stains from tear drops that couldn’t be brushed away fast enough. My selfies keep these parts of me close to the chest. They hide my mouth behind a screen.

My selfies keep my secrets.

It’s odd, when I think about it, that people don’t know about these thoughts or feelings. When I thought about what would best represent me without¬†me¬†being in the picture, the first thing that came to mind were my journals. My writings. Aside from¬†me, my journal pages have witnessed the realest parts of me. More, they¬†contain¬†the realest parts of me. I am not just in those pages. I¬†am¬†those pages. I own every word in those journals. I own every experience they record. They may even know me better than I know myself some nights.

At the same time that I think it’s odd people don’t know the¬†me¬†within my writing, I also can’t imagine sharing my journals with, really, anyone. Though there are some words within for other people that I should or could share, I don’t write in my journals for anyone else but me.

To me, selfies and new practices of self-representation in the digital age emphasize the partiality of self. There is not one container that can hold all of who and what we are. No single picture can accomplish that because who we are is so much more.

Not a single one of us is not enough.

Fuck anyone who ever made us feel differently. They were wrong. I hope we see can see that with every #selfie and #unselfie we take.

I know I’m trying to.

****

~Till next time~

Thoughts on Selfies

More Thoughts on Selfies

The Dark Circles Beneath (My first #selfieunselfie project)

Twitter

 

 

Privacy Is A Privilege?

“We are paying for everything right now. The currency we’re trading is data.” ~ Anne-Marie Scott

So, this week the polar vortex finally descended upon us and swallowed us whole in a show of might that only emphasized how insignificant we are–

Actually, class just got snowed out cause global warming is a thing and it’s screwing with the weather. What are you gonna do???¬†Pass Ocasi0-Cortez’s Green Deal???

Anyway, despite this week’s unfortunate weather, some of us were still able to meet online and continue shedding some light on the dark practices and conjurings happening just below the web’s¬† seemingly glossy surface. To help guide our discussion on the increasingly complex issues of privacy online, data tracking, real vs. fake, etc., we had Anne-Marie Scott (@ammienoot) and her insight and expertise.

Don’t You Forget About¬†Me The Light

In this week’s Studio Visit with Anne-Marie, a lot of discussion revolved around data protection and privacy in online spaces. In the European Union, where Anne-Marie is located, there are specific regulations put in place that decide what information about you can be collected or used by entities that wish to use the Internet as a platform for their content. These regulations are known as the GDPR (Global Data Protection Regulation) and control the flow and collection of data in the EU. There must be transparency if an entity is tracking your data for any reason and entities are not allowed to target specific persons with the data collected or else there could be severe penalties. Essentially, privacy online in the EU is being valued as a right rather than this private information being valued for financial gain. It’s an entirely different ideology than the one in America, where regulations are often viewed as hindrances to innovation and capital.

This contrast of belief is a highly contentious subject (as are most subjects where $$$ is involved). To be honest, I can understand both sides of the issue. Like, I get that it is through a lot of this data tracking and targeted advertising that many platforms we consider “free” make the revenue necessary to keep the sites accessible. If that revenue were to disappear or be severely cut, these site could no longer operate as virtually free entities. To a degree, I’m sympathetic. When my data is not being used for inherently questionable purposes, I admittedly don’t have a problem with its collection. Especially if it is providing the funding necessary to keep news organizations in circulation or to help creators online make the profit they need to continue making cool things. But, unfortunately, this kind of control over my data is not guaranteed in the current system in the US. Right now, it’s the “wild west” out here. A consumer free-for-all.¬†A Capitalist wet-dream.

Apart from a complete and utter paradigm shift, I’m not sure what actions could be taken to change this system in the US. Especially under the current administration (that killed net neutrality ’cause this whole “everyone has equal and equitable access to the Internet” sounds a lot like¬†Communism¬†>.>). Something suggested was paying extra for additional security that could ensure privacy; this is something many users seem willing to do, especially as they learn more about just how much of their data is being collected and used for less-than-what-should-be-legal purposes. That said, this brings into questions difficult issues such as privilege and access. As Anne-Marie so eloquently put it, “Privacy is a privilege.” I think it’s hard for many people, myself included, to understand what a privilege it is just to be able to discuss a subject like privacy. As we learned in our last Studio Visit with Chris Gilliard (@hypervisible), surveillance is nothing new to so many persons from marginalized or vulnerable groups of the population. And, I wonder if it would still be a big deal in big tech organizations if it were only affecting¬†certain¬†consumers. Also, as Anne-Marie noted, making privacy a privilege one has to pay for may only further segment the population, not only along social lines but also along class lines. Again, the most vulnerable would be the victims.

If anything, this discussion highlighted how privacy and online data tracking are not issues exclusive to themselves; instead there is much intersection. Many complex issues such as class, access, race, etc. intersect with privacy and data tracking. There is no simple solution for the problem–because there is not only¬†one¬†problem. There are many.

That said, Anne-Marie did suggest the GDPR could bode well for the future of many online services. Since these different services already have to alter their operations for implementation in the EU, why not implement these altered operations worldwide? They’re already going through all the effort, right? I’m a bit pessimistic about this suggestion, tbh. But, I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised. Also, Anne-Marie mentioned that some of these data collecting practices can be used for the creation of very helpful platforms–such as¬†Wikipedia.¬†An open-source platform like¬†Wikipedia¬†allows for conversation and community to develop around information which can allow for better information in the end. As many of us stated this week, it is the sense of community online spaces allow to develop that really redeems the Internet and makes endeavors to better and more fairly facilitate community and collaboration online worthwhile.

Ultimately, I believe the Internet is a clusterf*ck of #problematic issues to¬†say the least¬†but I also want to believe cue the X-Files theme that it can be this place for free and creative enterprise and interchange to occur. There is so much potential for such a space to exist if we are able to elect people into positions of power and influence who believe the Internet’s best qualities are community, collaboration, and creative enterprise. In America, at least, action like this needs to be taken or else change will not occur. I firmly believe that. It’s going to take an invigorated and self-actualized public to have meaningful impact on these issues. I think that privacy and data tracking are, of course, issues of personal responsibility as well. But, also, I don’t think it’s right that the burden to protect data and privacy should fall fully on individuals. The truth of the matter is that the general person is not informed of nor educated about these issues–which is another aspect of this that is important: education. In fact, it may be the first step that needs to be taken before others actions can be carried out. In this digital age, digital literacy should be as important as any other subject in school. When not “up-to-par”, this lack of education has a real-world, measurable impact on individuals. As I’ve stated before, I truly believe that education is what will always light the way. If anything, our efforts should be focused on how we can provide everyone with both access to such essential information and thorough explanation of that information so that informed decisions can be made.

I think classes like ours are igniting the spark.

match

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Bonus Post

This week, in an extra post, I shared a resource I think could be helpful in developing digital literacy skills. The resource is a series on Youtube made by¬†Crash Course. The series explores Media Literacy which intersects with many of the issues we explore in our own course. How to navigate a post-truth world is a focus of the series as well as how to become more informed about these unseen practices going on behind our screens. I think it’s a great tool to have in our library.

Daily Digital Alchemies

(So, full disclosure, these were kind of done between posting weeks but I’m putting them towards this post because I’m having a busy life this week and I need to do this >.< I’ll work on managing this!)

In my first DDA, I posted a screenshot of my screen use¬†which my phone has been tracking since an update or two ago???. I’m a little horrified at myself but I also think it could be worse–and¬†has been.¬†I’m either getting better at managing my screen time or I’m too busy to even look at my phone these :)))))) #gradlife #illcompletethisthesisordietrying

For my second DDA, I put my good ol’ giphy skills to use and giffed the first few sentences of my thesis. One copy is “disemvoweled”. I used a different site than the one suggested on the DDA though because I couldn’t access that site due to Adblocker??? Anyway, I hope you enjoy my avant-garbage~ There will be more to come.

~Till Next Time~

Your Fave Pyro

Developing Digital Literacy (One Video at a Time)~

Hey~

Welcome to this week’s bonus post ^.^ I’m going to try to keep it short & sweet!

A big topic in class related to privacy, data tracking, and navigating online spaces as a whole is that of¬†digital literacy. Data tracking, learning algorithms, and surveillance capitalism have largely been allowed to propagate and perpetuate and make a butt-ton of money off of all of us due in large part to a lack of regulation. Unfortunately, much of this has gone unregulated not because people do not care but because they do not know they¬†need to¬†care in the first place. A vast majority of the population, especially in the US, is simply unaware of the dangers online spaces pose to their privacy and other personal information. Most people don’t know that when a website is free, that means¬†they¬†are the product.

In order to enact meaningful change in regards to imposing regulations on the conduct of these digital entities, the public needs to speak up and elect officials who can make changes. But, in order for the public to speak up on these issues, they need to be informed and they need to know¬†why¬†it matters. To help better inform people at all levels on the issues affecting their relationship to the Internet and the Internet’s relationship to user information, I highly recommend¬†Crash Course¬†on Youtube’s¬†Media Literacy¬†series.

The series covers not only many of the topics we’ve already discussed so far in class but also discusses the intersection some of these concerns have with others. I think this series provides users with a good foundation from which to further develop their own stance on the issue. This source, too, I believe can be helpful for educating even younger users on the many issues affecting our interactions with the Internet.

I would give this resource a solid 9/10? There’s always room for improvement and I’m sure people have their own opinions on “educational Youtube”. Overall, at least, I think this is a useful tool to keep in our library.

More, I firmly believe that education is the spark that will light up the darkness of the web like a clear night sky.

****

~Till Next Time~

In the Algorithm We Trust (But Should We????)

Welcome back to hell~

This week, we dove deeper into the darkness of the web and the practices of those who use the web as a tool for mass surveillance. Topics in this week’s discussion include 1) data tracking, 2) digital redlining, and 3) surveillance capitalism.¬†Light stuff, I know.

Anyway, I suggest you grab a drink of your choice and strap in for my *hot take* on some of these issues~

Data Tracking, Digital Redlining, & Surveillance Capitalism Oh My!

So, this week, we got the ball rolling with a video on how advertising practices in online spaces are quickly turning the Internet into a dystopian nightmare that puts Orwell to shame. This video, “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads”, by¬†rockstar goddess Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) is one I shared in a prior blog post and is one I think explains the ramifications of current online data tracking practices in a very accessible way for most people. More importantly, I believe this video really emphasizes just how little regulation there is in place to stop Big Business from buying and selling our attention as if it were any other product and not something integral to life as we know it.

I think it’s important to understand that our “robot overloads” are not some far off possibility but a real-time inevitability. The world will end “not with a bang but a whimper” and all that. The Panopticon very clearly does not need to be a physical place in order to operate. It’s a state of mind and a state of being. In her talk, Tufekci mentions the idea of “surveillance capitalism”, which is the monetization of our online movements for marketing purposes, and the of “persuasive architecture” which is a structuring of a space like the Internet to best capture attention and so maximize profits. These concepts are important when discussing exactly why the current design of the Internet is not optimal for users. When private interests become more important that user benefits, I think there is a fundamental problem with that system, especially if the system is meant to be of public use. Essentially, we’re all experiencing a different Internet which can cause large rifts in information and knowledge between users which easily spills out into the real world.

For me, it is these implications that most concern me. Like, I don’t necessarily care about seeing ads for a pair of shoes I want all over the place but I care immensely more about the divide in knowledge this personalization of space for optimal monetization is causing. Especially when we’re talking about the Internet in a country whose citizens often define themselves along partisan lines like the U.S, these divisions become very concerning very fast. At least, for me. I think a lot of my classmates and most people are quite apathetic towards this issue. This, though, may be due in large part to a lack of informed consent and the development of diligent digital literacy.

The idea that digital literacy is essential to activating the public in order to enact meaningful change in regards to this issue is one that was discussed in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night. Which was uplifting to see. Though, even as a huge proponent of such measures, I remain skeptical of the effectiveness of them. It’s just, in this current sociopolitical climate, I don’t see how meaningful change has even a tiny chance. We’re more divided now than ever, it seems. Still, I want to be hopeful and I believe we can be a part of the movement towards meaningful change in this arena–it’s just going to require a lot of consistency in the face of overwhelming and, in many cases, willful ignorance.

There are many people out there, like Tufekci, who are trying to enact meaningful change in their own ways. In addition to watching Tufekci’s video, we also had the opportunity to have a studio visit with Chris Gilliard (@hypervisible) who is an outspoken voice on the subject of digital redlining as well as on the many other absurd ways in which we are being surveilled online. Digital redlining is basically the old redlining just repackaged in digital form and perhaps several times worse. (You can check out my older post on the subject.)

What I found most interesting from our talk with Gilliard is how truly privileged the notion of “I don’t have anything to hide” is as well as how utterly absurd. Even if that were true, so what??? That doesn’t give any entity the right to invade your privacy at a whim. More, it doesn’t give anyone the right to surveil someone who is not a criminal nor suspected of any criminal activity. It blew my mind when Gilliard talked about how our license plates are constantly being collected and cataloged and so that our regular movements can be tracked and compiled into a record.

surveillance1

Again, this is happening to all of us–not just people being suspected of wrongdoing. It’s crazy to me and, like Gilliard said, the burden to prove I don’t need to be under surveillance¬†should not be mine. It’s antithetical to everything this country was founded upon. And, it cannot be stressed enough, this kind of surveillance is¬†not¬†innocuous. It can¬†very¬†real world impact that affects agency, access, and opportunities in life. That’s far too much power to go unregulated and yet it does.

I found the idea of “permission-less innovation” to be another eye-opening concept. Essentially, the idea here is that questionable/concerning entities like Uber or whatnot are allowed to exist simply because they were developed and created before regulations existed to stop their existence. It’s this kind of weird chicken/egg problem. The word¬†innovation¬†somehow becomes a magic word that lets companies be dicks because nobody knew such a dick could exist until they popped up.

It’s honestly less discerning than I thought it would be to be living in a¬†Black Mirror¬†episode but it’s still really horrifying the more I let myself think about it.¬†Which is probably why I don’t.

nosedive1

Brett Gaylor (@remixmanifesto) is another researcher looking into the ethical and overarching issues with online data tracking. He’s one of the main contributors and creators of the¬†Do Not Track¬†series which explores how data tracking invades our daily lives in a very personalized way. Though I knew it was coming, when the first episode showed the town I lived in and the current temperature, I was highly perturbed. Hella freaked out, tbh. It’s one thing to read and hear about how easily it is to track you online but a whole other thing to see it so clearly demonstrated. That little detail is honestly hat freaked me out the most, more than the information on the web of connections between the different sites I visit, because it’s really¬†not¬†a small detail. It makes me feel unsafe.

Again, it’s one thing to subconsciously understand you live in a surveillance state and a whole other thing to be shown evidence that you are being surveilled.

Overall, I found this week to be a very disconcerting week. For the most part, I believe I am fairly resigned to being surveilled. But, this week, I found out that there are many things about living in a surveillance state/economy that I am actually very¬†not¬†okay with. Before this week, I wanted to believe that education could help alleviate this issue. I really did. But, now, I’m not so sure that is enough. We really need to mobilize and activate ourselves in order to get people into positions of power who can facilitate meaningful change–whatever that may be. I’m still not sure on what should be done.

I do know what you call Chicken Little when the sky is falling though:

Right. Awfully right.

****

Out of My Depth

In addition to this overview, I also wrote a post about a site called “Am I Unique?” which allows users to see how their browser fingerprints compare to others. To be honest, I feel like looking into this issue only created more questions for me. If anything, sites like this make it abundantly clear why digital literacy is very necessary. A basic knowledge of some coding practices would also be very nice. If anyone has anything else to add about browser fingerprints, please feel free to provide that info in a comment on the post! It’s be greatly appreciated.

Regarding these additional posts, I would like to express some concerns I have. Mainly, I feel that we were not properly informed about these additional posts. I understand that class went late last week but I do not think a brief paragraph at the bottom of the weekly class post was enough to fully explain what is expected. Also, I wish there was more of a discussion in general about adding them at all. I understand they are going to serve a larger purpose but two additional posts on the topics asked for is a lot of work because these topics are not easy or familiar to many of us and require a time commitment to adequately analyze. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel a little out of my depth here and could use a lot more guidance on the subject matter. I don’t mean for this to be a criticism but I did want to make my concerns known.

Daily Digital Alchemies

This week, I shared how art inspires me to create and think critically from different perspectives. I find myself heavily inspired by the messages encoded in art.

Also, I shared style icon Wednesday Addams and some words to live by. Honestly, I dare a man to try and control me in any way.¬†I’m not trapped in a man’s world. Men are trapped in¬†my world.

Back At It With Twitter

So, here we are again at the top of the semester, looking at my lacking Twitter activity:

2019-02-052019-02-05 (1)

Don’t worry. I’ll find my groove as the semester picks up. Look forward to more 3 AM tweets as I continue working late into the night on my thesis :))))))))

~Till next time~

@myFBIagent Till always~

 

Descending into Darkness…

So…. this past week was a bit of a mess.

I experienced some major and hella expensive car issues that made me wish for a self-driving car for the first time ever despite their numerous, reported issues.

Anyway, enough about my ever-growing list of issues. Let’s dive into the Internet’s f*ckery~

The Dark Substance of the Internet

This week, discussion started off light enough with an introductory reading on alchemy and the creation and nature of this ancient magic’s digital form. This reading was also meant to provide an exercise for those of us unfamiliar with hypothes.is. (I am clearly not I will give anyone a piece of my mind anytime, in the margins or otherwise). Anyway, I found this reading to be both nostalgiac and an informative refresher on the true history of what we are delving into in this class. I made some comments here and there that are informed by my own experience with this kind of “magic” as well as my by own perspective I have been developing on burgeoning digital practices of creation and communication in the course of my thesis (check¬†that blog¬†for some real nonsense). In my second comment, I liken the concepts of “alternative facts” and “post-truth” to a kind of modern-day alchemical process in which words and semantics are transmogrified to horrible effect. This generated some interesting discussion on the nature of truth and reality itself. I’m not sure if I really have any answers to the questions posed about the nature of realty and of truth but I do know there are some statements and facts we all agree are “true” and create something “real” and I believe that it is important to acknowledge when opposing statements made to these self-evident truths are made not just to identify a “glitch in our matrix” but with the intent to vindicate a perspective on the¬† deserves no consideration let alone vindication. Contemplating the nature of truth and reality is a fun, philosophical exercise but it is important to remember that many people these days are not challenging the nature of truth and reality to pose a philosophical argument or to play devil’s advocate; they are doing it to forward some reprehensible and downright disgusting agendas that have¬†very¬†real consequences.

Anyway, rant over, I also want to shout-out the shout-out our “Gandalf” gave¬†Fullmetal Alchemist¬†Brotherhood, I hope. It’s always cool to find out that some thing we love is actually a part of meaningful and robust tradition ^.^

snappymustang

Enjoy a snappy Mustang~

In addition to exploring this reading, we also took a deeper delve into the dark upper, middle, and lower belly of online advertising. I read up on the history of the medium as well as considered the nature of “surveillance capitalism“. Horrifyingly enough, this concept is¬†not¬†just some Orwellian idea. (Though, perhaps it is Kafkaesque???) Essentially,¬†we¬†and everything we¬†do¬†becomes a marketable quantity for advertisers. When a system allows for this kind of advertising to occur, there is an incentive created for 24/7 surveillance. Me looking up pictures of megabats at 3 AM is very valuable information, you know??? Wouldn’t want to miss it.

Anyway, to be honest and, as I mentioned in my last post, I and I’m sure many other people, especially in my generation and younger, kind of already accept that we are constantly being monitored.¬†If you’re living in a surveillance state and you know it, clap your hands. What many of us may not understand is what exactly is being monitored and why that information is being monitored. I think for many people, still, it is very difficult understand how advertising works in this 21-century, digital age. More, the process seems so utterly unbelievable as to be whole dismissed as “fake news”.

This thread by user @hypervisible provides a long laundry list of ludicrous facts about not only the ways we are constantly being surveilled but about the things that are actually¬†able to be¬†surveilled. I was asked to pick just one from this long list that stood out to be as horribly absurd and troubling but, honestly, I find myself simultaneously horrified and not horrified/surprised in the slightest by¬†any¬†of these facts. Certain students are encouraged by targeted ads to drop out? Of course more labor for the Capitalist machine.¬†Jeff Bezos is deleting 1984¬†off Kindles remotely??? Ironic and of course. Apple and Google don’t care about their employees? Duh.

Our descent into this night has not been gentle.

Perhaps I’m jaded and disillusioned and I’m a bit too much of a nihilist at heart but so much of what is currently happening in the so-called “darkness” is something many of us have seen written bright as day on the wall for years. The Internet has always had this potential to be something so magical and to be something that can extend beyond its boundaries but it is these same qualities that seem to have made it into what it has become today. That potential and that magic came with a great responsibility that was not observed. Advertising in online spaces is only one of many evils/curses that has gotten out of hand due to a lack of foresight, oversight, and accountability. There is also this distinct lack of humanity and common decency that also seems to be propelling this evil further and further, out of the dark reaches straight into our homes and our hands. Nothing is ever going to change if we don’t decide to¬†care. My disillusionment and resignment with the system is not merely a symptom; It’s also a cause.

I believe that there is a cure to every curse. If not a reversal, a nullification, at least. Perhaps that is the kind of magic we should care more about finding.

****

Daily Digital Alchemies

This week, I shared some bot recommendations. I had the opportunity to explore bots as well as making bots in early renditions of this course. I think they are a lot of fun and can be used as a tool to tell some compelling, nonlinear narratives ^.^

Also, I got to play around with one of my fave, little sites clash. I think it’s a really simple but interesting way to see how online spaces can be used in collaboration with other mediums.

Lastly, I decided to contribute in absentia and¬†mad¬†late¬†to last week’s in-class DDA. I decided to share a picture of some of the thoughtful clutter cluttering my IRL space. In this photo, I have an old & beloved stuffed cat Beanie Baby (named Dicey) on top of a pop vinyl Dementor stacked atop a stack of Edgar Allen Poe books–the go-to gift when a family member doesn’t know what to get me. Overtly, there is contrast between the Dementor & the Edgar Allen Poe books and the Beanie Baby. To me, there is a contrast between the nightmare fuel and the object that brought me comfort from my nightmares as a child being grouped together.

~Till next time~