Art is a representation and encapsulation of human emotions, sentiments, ideas, view points, and paradigms – it can be more than one of those at once, and comes in various forms. It makes the viewer think, empathize, sympathize, or throw the viewer out of their comfort zone. It can be a visual representation of our world as we see it, but it is often not a completely pure view, and frequently out of this world.
Pearl Bank Apartments was built back in 1976, and was one of the first all-housing projects that the Housing and Development Board built from its Sale of Sites program. An iconic, thirty-eight story monolith that towers above its empty surroundings, it was a beacon of development and progress when it was first built. Now, it has struggled to keep up, with two attempted sales of the site garnering no interest. Its surroundings now being redeveloped, Pearl Bank Apartment stands as a reminder of Singapore’s past, which the country has slowly started to build over.
Building up on my initial concept of using data and links, I feel that the viewer would play a key element in the project – they will be contributing to the project itself by handing certain Facebook data that is already public (friends, connections, checked in) in order to build up a rough relationship map of ADM.
I believe that the relationship of ADM students and professors beyond simply being under the same institution would be an interesting aspect to explore – how many students and professors are actually connected to each other? Are there more common interests besides subject-specific areas? How many people have gone to the same place?
To do this, the viewer must also become an active participant in the project. The network map depends on data given by interested parties – the viewer must be willing to share something for the work to grow.
Given that we’ve only worked with static, defined data, I’ve been pondering as to how the project would be materialized – hopefully something like this website built with Gephi, but with the links being made on-the-fly based on common factors from the data the participants give.
Screenshot of a site built with Gephi to visualize social connections
Overall, the project depends entirely upon the participation of viewers in order to build a cohesive map – they play a key element in the building up of the work, in as much as they are viewers of the work. This makes the work a collaborative effort in a way, taking shape depending on participation and input.
The internet is a wonderfully large, strange, shared space for all of us. Each one of us maintains an online presence in some form – whether it be through social media, forums, media sharing, or online portfolio sites, we all have at least some sort of virtual footprint. Most people give a ton of their data away online, willingly – posting when they leave their homes (not safe), where they go on vacation, what they eat, their opinions on certain events, etc. While for the most part, these are individual experiences and postings, the online platform gives us the opportunity to connect these individuals together.
As previously explored in our past lesson, data visualization gives us an opportunity to explore connections, and create meaning out of it – or use it to create something else entirely. I turn to Lev Manovich’s outlook on the use of data visualization:
If Romantic artists thought of certain phenomena and effects as
un-represantable, as something which goes beyond the limits of human senses
and reason, data visualization artists aim at precisely the opposite: to map such
phenomena into a representation whose scale is comparable to the scales of
human perception and cognition.
Data visualization gives us the opportunity to encompass the vast amount of connections and commonalities we share into something tangible and readable. I feel that it would be a great way to feature something more than what most data visualization tools do, which usually highlight friend connections and common school institutions.
Data visualization of my social network, generated by TouchGraph
Friend connections generated by FriendWheel
With all the data we make available, I feel that it is possible to collate them together visually and hold a discussion on how we are linked together, individually. Perhaps somehow linking to Instagram, and showing who in your networks post under certain hashtags, or a geo-map showing where you and your friends have been, linking the pictures together over a map. We could also collate Facebook posts based on content (quite ambitious, perhaps) and connect friends based on the type of content they post.
Mapstagram, which tracks new posts tagged in limited cities across the US
Whilst the data to be visualized is subject to our interest, I feel that data visualization is a great point for us to consider, as it explores the intertwining of our lives while at the same time emphasizing the isolatory and individualistic nature of social media (since they are all “me-centric” rather than “we-centric”.)
“Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publications, the free press as we know it disappears. Then the spectre of a government agent will look over the shoulder of everyone who reads. The purchase of a book or pamphlet today may result in a subpoena tomorrow. Fear of criticism goes with every person into the bookstall. The subtle, imponderable pressures of the orthodox lay hold. Some will fear to read what is unpopular, what the powers-that-be dislike. When the light of publicity may reach any student, any teacher, inquiry will be discouraged. The books and pamphlets that are critical of the administration, that preach an unpopular policy in domestic or foreign affairs, that are in disrepute in the orthodox school of thought will be suspect and subject to investigation. The press and its readers will pay a heavy price in harassment. But that will be minor in comparison with the menace of the shadow which government will cast over literature that does not follow the dominant party line. If the lady from Toledo can be required to disclose what she read yesterday and what she will read tomorrow, fear will take the place of freedom in the libraries, book stores, and homes of the land. Through the harassment of hearings, investigations, reports, and subpoenas government will hold a club over speech and over the press.”
-William O. Douglas [United States v Rumley, 345 U.S. 41 (1953)]
There are events for each generation their time. For the “Great Generation” in the 1900s, it was World War II. For the “Generation X”, it was the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. For my generation, it is most likely to be 9/11 – the day the world changed. Hasan Elahi, an Indian-born American multimedia artist, explores the consequences of the paranoia following 9/11 – when the American government began its worldwide surveillance to counter “terrorist threats.”After being held back by the FBI and being questioned on his activities, Hasan sets out to document everything he does and uploads them online for everyone to see on his website.
His website, Tracking Transcience, showcases nearly every detail of his life – where he has been, what he has spent money on, what he has eaten, and what he has cooked. He created this website in 2006 – right around the silent start of the social media craze. In a way, much of the info on his site is similar to posts on social media. However, his site lacks one thing that social media adds – context. Without the context of why he is in x, why he had y, and why he was flying to z, Hasan has managed to reduce his full existence to nothing more than data for us to peep at.
By being completely open to being peeped, yet at the same time removing key context, I feel that Hasan has managed to emulate Lady Godiva in a sense – he is baring himself nude, but without any context, he is not inviting us to peep at him – not like social media, wherein you see a picture of a taco with the story that it “… is the best taco in Singapore, omg so shiok u all must try!” in contrast to a post on Hasan’s site which would only show the taco, and a timestamp.
I feel that Hasan manages to critique not only the powers-that-be that consistently monitor everything in the name of safety, but the modern culture of sharing everything we have online. He uses himself as an example of how much data one can upload, and how much others can see into your own life, yet at the same time, he uses this to mask himself, by reducing his day-to-day as raw data without any meaning, he manages to keep a part of himself hidden.
Looking at Hasan’s work, and all his data online, we have to wonder – do we share too much online? Does it matter at this point, with Edward Snowden’s revelations on the NSA’s spying program? Should you take charge of the info that will be online anyway, or should you fight for your own sense of privacy? These are questions that I feel are growing ever more relevant in this age. How far away are we from Big Brother? Does he already exist? Or have we created Big Brother ourselves – by our posting and sharing? Either way – the Thoughtpolice will always know (or think they know, at least.)
When we think of programs and code, we think of near-perfect structures that function flawlessly. In reality, programs and websites are far from flawless. Since they are made by humans, they are also capable of carrying human error. The art collective Jodi breaks down the various elements of websites and games to highlight the occurrence of glitches and create something new from these sources.
Jon Cates’ idea of dirty new media is that it isn’t perfect or clean, due to their very existence in the world:
… But also that there is a non-neutrality of techno-social artifacts and contexts, that our technologies are not neutral, also that they are embedded, they are part of our lives, and that embeddedness has the word “bed” in there, we’re in bed with them also, they’re embedded in ways that are complex. They are not sterile, they’re imperfect, they are not clean, because they exist in the world, which is also imperfect. And so, I do believe that dirty new media as a way of life and as an approach to art making is a way of foregrounding these facts, these realities, of our lived experiences, and acknowledging how situated we are with all of these systems, and artifacts.
These works highlight the human limitation of machines. Whilst these sites and games work well for their purpose for the most part, taken to a different context and purpose, they react in a disjointed, confused manner. They are far from perfect. The potential and purpose of a program is limited to what a person makes it to be, and thus leaves a lot open to glitch about, which Jodi highlights.
In modern internet culture, most people actually enjoy glitches (so long as they aren’t game breaking), as seen with various YouTube channels such as cricken and motdef, and the popularity of games such as GTA, which was well known in its early days for the ridiculous cheats one could put in, causing cars to fly around and pedestrians having military-grade guns. Fallout 3 and New Vegas are well known for their buggy, yet hilarious launches, with physics being way off, and limbs splattering about everywhere. Most open world games are subject to tons of glitch interactions, due to the wide amount of things to do and limit in developer scope, which leads to interesting situations. Whilst these recent trends do not necessarily go about breaking down games into an abstract interactive form, I do feel that they capture the playfulness and the curiosity of Jodi in exploring the limits and quirks of technology.
I think Jodi is an amazing collective, featuring great modifications with games and sites, and highlighting the “organic” factor of machines. Machines are capable of so much greatness, but are ultimately creations of man, and are subject to the failings of men as well.