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  • mono 7:09 pm on April 7, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Grandpa Seth, Joshua, , MySpace, , , Specular Image, , , Web Cam   

    Social Media and The Specular Image: The Floating Head 


    For Jacques Lacan, “the specular image” can be envisioned through the example of one seeing oneself in the mirror. The act of seeing the perceived wholeness of oneself in the reflection of the mirror is captivating for the child. It is this captivating gaze that produces the specular image (Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis). Is it not the same with us in our daily lives: looking in the mirror to make sure that our hair is properly set, brushing one’s teeth and checking to make sure there are no toothpaste stains on the cheek or in the hazy moments upon awaking, looking at oneself in the mirror while wiping away the grime of sleep that sits in the eye.

    A Body in the Dark

    The specular image is actualized through the imagination. It is imaginary. One can truly experience this by trying the following: dim the lights or stand in a dark room. Look intently at one’s image in the mirror and try to grasp the face in all of its strangeness. Notice the shifting contents of the face, the transformative powers of the imagination come to life in this simple exercise. The body in the mirror reflects back the body’s surface. We cover our body in our imagination. Again, the Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis writes, “The specular image refers to the reflection of one’s own body in the mirror, the image of oneself which is simultaneously oneself and other — the ‘little other’.”

    Social Media: The Collectible Friend

    In 2004, when I first began using social media for artistic purposes, I realized the oddity of MySpace using the word “friend” as the person who adds you or you can add to your site. Moreover, the visual representation of that “friend” gave me a certain warmth and, at the same time, mixed with hysteria. One’s friend count seemed to be the measure by which others were ranked. The music side of MySpace was blossoming and I quickly sustained hundreds and eventually thousands of collectible “friends,” which is pretty impressive given that what I was creating was pure chaotic analog/digital noise. The specular image of oneself as a collectible” friend to others, reduced to an icon meant that one had to choose one’s visual mode of representation wisely, or at least fashionably…Moreover, the fascination of altering the image, my ‘little other’ increased while I worked to expand my network. What I did admire about those times was the willingness of others to collaborate. MySpace seemed like the perfect place to collaborate, share and establish lasting connections and I believe it was.

    I’m Shrinking

    How is one’s specular image represented in one’s use of social media? What kind of secret identities, code names, nicknames, aliases emerge and make space. How does the online self, the labyrinthine self navigate and make itself relevant? How is one’s disembodiment experienced through the use of that horrifying device: the web cam? The web cam shrinks one’s specular image to a reversed 2D image. One only needs to adjust the angle in order to transfigure the appearance of the face. NOTE: this was also heavily used in the hand-held Myspace profile shots or in ultra-close-ups, framing the face as point of personality, the floating head.

    The Floating Head in Troll 2

    In the film Troll 2 (dir. Claudio Fragasso), there is a scene where the young boy, Joshua is trying to communicate with his deceased grandfather’s spirit-body by concentrating on a mirror and willing for his grandfather to appear. The first part of the grandfather’s body which comes into being is nothing but a floating head, which quickly morphs and materializes into a violent goblin. This shift is interesting to me. First, we see the floating head coming from the nether world, but upon materialization there is a rift and the image of the grandfather is overtaken by an ugly monster. Who is the other that one addresses through the specular image of the camera or the web cam? Does it matter? How much do you stake on the online representation of the other? What, to you, is the experience of meeting the flesh-and-blood other after having interacted in a computerized networked environment?

    No Subject: Lacan
    Troll 2

  • mono 11:31 pm on April 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brainstorm, , , , MySpace, Online Communities, , , , Social Networking Analysis, , Think Tank, Tower of Babel, , Twitters, ,   

    Web 3.0: Social Hybrid 


    Today, I read the following article which discusses speculations regarding Web 3.0 and asks the question, “What would you like Web 3.0 to be?” The article is from Soshable and can be read here: Soshable: Web 3.0

    Webster defines “hybrid” in the following way:

    1: an offspring of two animals or plants of different races, breeds, varieties, species, or genera
    2: a person whose background is a blend of two diverse cultures or traditions
    3 a: something heterogeneous in origin or composition : composite b: something (as a power plant, vehicle, or electronic circuit) that has two different types of components performing essentially the same function

    The idea of two different species of websites merging together interests me very much, but beyond this I am weary about centralization, worried about the flow covering over my discovery of potential useful information. After having read about FriendFeed from several social media blogs, I created my account and began “sharing.” What immediately struck me was the absolute minimalism of one’s profile page, the strict focus on the data-stream as opposed to the development of one’s self through the use of symbols (as greatly seen on MySpace). However, without any “friends” on FriendFeed to keep track of, I visited the “Everyone” page to observe the conversational flow. What immediately stuck out was the frequent Twitter feeds that wouldn’t quit and proved quite distracting, until I realized that I was essentially merely an observer. After sharing a link, I watched as it quickly vanished into the nether world, just another blip from someone on the other side of the world. This kind of fast-moving meaningless glimpse at the snippets of conversations, makes me realize the necessity of adding “friends” to the Friendfeed site. Ah, I have digressed. Where was I? Ah yes, Social Hybridity.

    Under a Black Sky, Disconnected

    As I was walking outside this evening under the black Japan sky amidst the industrial bleakness of the suburbs, I began to really think what feature I would like to see emerge in Web 3.0. I began thinking about the idea of more online literature, downloadable books perhaps merging with a literary networking site, but then I realized that I am still very much attached to a real book, the feeling of turning the pages, savoring the textures of the book…

    Returning to the Tower of Babel

    Then, I had a thought. What is it that would make interacting with others easier? What am I missing in the chatter that comes from languages that I have never studied and do not understand? The separation of tongues was also very evident on the “FriendFeed” “everyone” viewing experience. I saw random Twitters and blog posts in foreign languages appear and, upon refreshing the page, washed away. What may be interesting, although it is perhaps quite far-fetched, would be a social networking site with emphasis on international linguistic diversity and some kind of function which would translate the other’s language into the language of my choice and vice versa. Of course, this is far-fetched in that even with advanced online translators, we all know that the task of translating from one language to another loses something, there is something that the computerized translation software cannot grasp and cannot adequately express. The slang, the nuance, sarcasm and word-play tend to get lost when filtered through the computerized translator. In my dream space, this would be realizable. That is, I would like to see a site with emphasis on translatability, on being able to see a page in Chinese appear in English with 99% of its natural flare in tact. Moreover, through a chat function, my words would be instantly translated to the other and the other’s to me, in our mother tongue. Perhaps, this would be one of my hopes for social hybridity.

    However, there is one obvious consequence of this idea of linguistic hybridity that comes to mind and that is a decline in the challenge to learn a language. Therefore, perhaps the site could also feature a rich translation tool that allows one to see just how words are being translated, online language lessons and the history of the development of the language (a kind of built-in Wiki). Of course, the site could also host various podcasts, international vlogs, downloadable educational content and the like. Eduction + Interaction.

    Think Tank Create Tank

    Another idea that comes to mind is a space that allows those wishing to collaborate on a project, brainstorm ideas visually and textually, working together to create some kind of multimedia project across the platform of a social networking site. For example, three musicians existing in three different countries come together through the site and are able to upload music files to their perhaps “private” group space online (on the SNS site), the site also provides a voice chat option/web cam option and spaces for sketching ideas visually and taking notes. In this way, the musicians at their own pace can work to collaborate on a piece of music, editing it in their own countries at the own homes, but uploading it and editing it through the social networking site itself. One may visualize this as a kind of think tank social networking site for professionals to meet, network and work together. Of course, not only musicians but video artists, online poets, fashion designers, architects, urban planners and virtual reality designers as well could use this page.

    I realize that both of the ideas presented here are macro in scope devoid of any technical way of making these ideas happen, but they are just to get the juices flowing, so to speak. Social hybridity, social hybridity, social hybridity…


    So now I pass it on to you….what are your hopes for Web 3.0 and what problems would you like see solved? The Media Ecologist Neil Postman asked the question, “What problem is this new technology the solution?” I am curious as to what your online “problems” are and how new socially minded applications could help solve them?

  • mono 12:20 pm on April 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Data Portability, , Flickr, Fragmentation, , Labyrinthine Self, , Mash-Up, MySpace, , , , socialnetworks, TechCrunch,   

    A Messy Marco-Analysis of Social Media: The Labyrinthine Self 

    An example of a social network diagram.Image from WikipediaThe following is a messy macro-analysis of social media and I hope to elucidate these ideas in the coming weeks. Please bear with me. Also, if you have spent time with what is talked about here, please get in touch, suggest links, propose theories, probes, ideas, etc. I support fragmentation.

    It seems that the decentralization of the self across a number of social networking sites multiplies and fragments the self while creating what I want to call: the labyrinthine self. A definition of the labyrinthine self could be: the self that is created from the decentralization of one’s identity through the fragmentation of one’s knowledge-networks as existing within various social media platforms.

    An easy-to-understand example could be: one creates a Myspace page as a “Film Director,” one then creates a Youtube page as a “Film Director,” in order to extend one’s knowledge-network. In addition, to represent one’s “private” self, one joins Facebook to reconnect with old friends. In order to keep the world updated instantly, a Twitter feed is created, a “film blog” at typepad and finally a Secondlife character is designed in order to further spread one’s “films” or simply just to connect via the virtual world (with other Lindens). In doing this, one has essentially and willingly created the labyrinthine self, that is one’s self has extended to the extent that it has become impossible to fully keep track of and be in control of one’s own knowledge-network. In addition, the self in seeing itself existing across these platforms becomes fragmented. Data that is shared on Facebook is not shared on Twitter or Secondlife and so on. Moreover, even with sites that work to centralize one’s self (Friendfeed), I still see the labyrinthinization of the self. That is to say, even in the centralized space of Friendfeed, there is still a reliance on the labyrinth that one has created or that one is feeding off of. That is, what is Friendfeed apart from the decentralized sites that it allows one to share? Moreover, if anything Friendfeed sustains the fragmented self by willfully encouraging one to put back the puzzle of one’s social media existence.

    Then, there is “data portability,” which is the sharing of data across time-space. This means, jumping from node to node along the labyrinthine tunnel, consciously decentralizing oneself, while maintaining one identity, perhaps something like a “master password.” In this way, one jumps from room to room – different rooms are experienced, but you are still you, fragmented nonetheless.

    Within both of these examples is the unfolding of one’s knowledge-network and, moreover, the ability for one’s data to float through that network into a hither unknown area only to be re-appropriated by another person. That is to say, the “mash-up” trend in blogging. “Mash-up” is the conjoining of two or more things to create something new. It is kind of like cooking. If I mix one part “silly pet video from Youtube,” one part “crazy New York party pics from Flickr” and one part “book review from my favorite blog,” I create a new way of visualizing and interpreting the data, due to the unique context that I created. This leads to what we could even call “the mish-mash self,” the self that appropriates online symbols (images, music files, viral videos, photographs) and uses them to represent one’s self. In a way, this blog represents facets of my labyrinthine self and my mish-mash self. That is to say, one’s blog is a space where one, through the “mashing” of one’s favorite media, creates a new space, a new context from which to view the data.

    Questions for Consideration:

    How is the virtual representation of your identity transformed by your use of social networking sites?
    How deep does your knowledge-network go?
    Do you think that a centralized social media site will fulfill your social media desires? That is, do you prefer centralization or decentralization? What is the relationship of centralization and decentralization in sites like Myspace or Friendfeed?
    Where does Secondlife exist in all of this?

    The article that you have just read was inspired by and relates to: This blog
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