1. INITIAL CONCEPTUALISATION
Exploring Anonymity, Privacy, Pleasure and Threshold. These were the concepts we were able to explore and alter through our Crowd Sourced Art
Before we jumped right into any of the social media platforms on our phones, we took a step back. We wanted to keep the social experiment/art as ‘real’ as possible. We did not want to have to let our audience know we needed participation nor explicitly suggest that it was an art piece. We also did not want to compromise the authenticity of the work and hence decided to utilise a platform that was in line with our vision. This was to try to achieve our intended outcome as best as possible.
We decided to use the popular/notorious Gay Dating App, Grindr as our Social Media platform. The demographics of the platform would allow us to explore the concepts we wanted to with quick interaction, given our 60mins time frame, to start and conclude our experiment. It also would not require us to solicit help from our peers to participate.
We set up a ‘fake’ profile using a picture of Jessical’s friend (with his permission) using the tag line – fun (a slang for sex in the homosexual community) . We also added the visible bio (actually I’m only 15…). Given that the legal age in Singapore for consensual sex is 16, we wanted to test how many people would still approach our profile and solicit sex from an underage teen.
- We did not initiate any of the conversations and decided to leave it ‘floating’, waiting for other users to message first
- We only uploaded one picture and disclosed no personal info to emphasise on anonymity
- In every conversation that was initiated we emphasised on the age issue by directly asking the user if they were okay w the age. This was to remind them of the legality and morality surrounding it
- For those that eventually turned us down, we wanted to see if we could convince them to say yes
- We also wanted to test how far people would be willing to reveal (personal info, pics etc) just for the momentary hope or indulgent pleasure that they may be able to hook up with a good looking person despite having only our profile pic as the one information they had
We segregated the responses into those who said yes and agreed or wanted to solicit underage sex knowingly, and those who rejected us with the same knowledge in mind
The above people all seemed shocked about the profile’s supposed underage status and were apprehensive initially. However without any prompting they went ahead still.
No (BUt YES?
These were the users whose threshold we managed to ‘push’. These were the group of people whom initially seemed shocked but with just a little convincing, their mindset seemed to completely change.
These users were very clear about their stance and consistently turned the profile down despite advances.
This particular user acknowledged the legal and moral issue but seemed to justify that since the act of engaging in homosexual sex itself is illegal, doing so with an underage person was acceptable, given the premise of the app’s interface and purpose.
Commitment vs Rewards
We realised that the reward in this case for users was a prized sexualised object that was just too ‘within reach’ to resist. Most of them were willing to divulge personal information and pictures just because we were dangling a carrot (an illusionary one too) before their eyes. There was also no form of tangible commitment needed. Hence the potential rewards were enticing enough.
The consequence in actuality for soliciting of underage sex is punishable by law. Yet many didn’t seem flinched or bothered by it. Maybe the protection of being a profile behind a screen gives people the power to exercise and indulge indirectly. After all a profile can be deleted. One does not directly feel or bear the consequence unless they are reported.
All users had the choice to say and send what they wanted to us. We did not force or instruct them to do so. In fact we reminded them about the potential consequence of their choices
Though we did not directly control their actions, we intervened and influenced them with our tone such that it appealed to the specific characteristic of the stereotypical user of the app.
As artists we had full control over our piece but no control over the outcome that was essentially still determined by the autonomy of the user in the end.
Role of Creator
Being a fake profile, there was the issue of ethical behaviour at the back of our heads as artists. There were moments we did feel a tinge of guilt for ‘baiting’ the users. However in the bigger picture, many fake profiles do exist and were simply utilising a temporary one. We did not disclose the personal info that were shared (pictures, address, linked SM accounts). We also made the choice not to let the users know they were part of a social artwork, but simply deleted the profile after the timeframe.
Anonymity gave us the power to be an alternate persona with its own reality on the platform we used. It allowed us to explore the concepts we wanted to, effectively and in an unbiased manner. However we also needed some pre existing knowledge about the community, to navigate the conversations that were initiated.
Our collective piece served as a social commentary on privacy and anonymity in today’s world where virtual reality is an entity with its own rules. It is a documentation of spontaneous responses that illustrates the above mentioned alternate reality. Most of the things during this interaction would not happen in physical reality. To some extent we have to agree that this might be due to the ‘extreme’ nature of the platform. On other general SM sites like Instagram and Facebook, people do not usually exercise such voracity and boldness.