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From the artist’s website

“A site-specific artwork that auto-generates films based upon narrative data collected from Facebook profiles. Using a combination of status updates, YouTube uploads and video portraits, the work looks at people in Barrow-in-Furness from a range of different perspectives, each one a form of surveillance.

The project uses status updates and demographic profiles, from Facebook users who live in Barrow, to automatically generate video narratives. Data from Facebook is combined with related footage from YouTube and selections from a database of video portraits to create one new video each day. The result is a dynamic snapshot of how we fit into the network of stories that we participate in every day. The videos evolve to keep pace with how we change, both individually and collectively.”

The status updates that the project selects are typically from a number of different users, as the software will seek out the best combination of available posts until it finds something that can be considered a story. This ‘script’ will then be used to construct a short film: a split screen in which one half consists of clips from a video portrait database filmed in advance, with people from Barrow who match the demographic profile of each status post; and the other half is footage automatically found on YouTube, with tags that match the text in the status post.

According to the artist, this is the first artwork to be made inside Facebook. By joining this application, data from your Facebook profile — age, gender and status updates — will be analyzed for narrative content, and potentially used to generate a short film. Your name will not be used, and your identity will remain private.

TODAY, TOO, I EXPERIENCED SOMETHING… in relation to other works

Linking social media and surveillance, this work creates intimate, yet somewhat confusing ‘collage portrait’ combining different data streams from various not nessecarily in any way related people. The data is mined and combined automatically, the work by the artist being in defining the boundries and patterns in software and coding, the result being computer generated. By being computer generated, the work follows up in certain ways on other works that concern coded form and electronic production, such as Yoichiro Kawaguchi’s Ocean or Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen’s Listening Post, which both in their own way combine streams of data to create a virtual world which reflect on the ‘real’ world.

At the same time, it evokes works such as Johannes Gees and CALC’s Communimage, which in a similar way uses a computer controlled algorithm to make visible the webs that are woven by and through online communities, through the stream of data generated by people connected by the internet.

This can be seen as fulfilling what Roy Ascott calls “the grand aspiration of networking in art, where the art work, the transformations of ‘creative data,’ are in perpetual motion, an unending process. I this sense the art itself becomes not a discrete set of entities, but rather a web of relationships between ideas and images in constant flux…” (Ascott 1984, p. 232-233)

Links and references

Ascott, Roy. Art and Telematics: Towards a Network Consciousness, 1984. In: Edward Shanken, red. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009, p. 232-233.

James Coupe

Link to Facebook application (only Barrovians can join)

Link to daily Youtube video subscription