User:Mihail Bakalov/Trimester 5/GraduateResearchSeminar/Thesis1stchapter

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User, reflection and identification

The following chapter will elaborate on my methodology and its development before and throughout the course and support it with case studies of previous projects.

In my work, I develop a series of works using various media such as physical printed material, interactive video projections and interfaces for on-line platforms. These works are connected by the topic of the network and the manner in which I work with various material using coding (reworking and existing interface, for instance) and photography (images I have generated myself and 'found' images which pre-exist on-line). In my previous photographic experiments, I have dealt with similar subjects, mostly observation and isolation of hidden/neglected elements of mundane objects and situations. My work offers an alternative view on a topic within an abstract visual representation, creating a blend between the visible and hidden through my subjective view. Gradually my interest shifted from finding these situations and using photography as a way to document them, to create tangible works that exist as extensions and interpreters to their environment. Such an example is the project YouLoop, consisting of a local social video platform for participants to record footage in the exhibition space.

Over the past two years I have worked on subjects concerning data anonymization, ways of expression in on-line social platform and the influence of the design of these platforms. I found inspiration in the book “Wherefore Art thou R3579X?” where the authors Backstrom and Dwork talk about digital traces of human social interactions and privacy on-line. They work with some main elements of social networks, constructing communication graphs from publicly crawlable blogging and social networking sites. Illustrating concepts of privacy in data mining, researching structural data anonymization and evaluating users' personal data vulnerability.

Previous work

1st project

Who knows, left or right?

One of my first attempts dealing with on-line social spaces started within the field of copyright infringement. In “Who knows, left or right?” in collaboration with Lidia Pereira focusing on YouTube and the obstacles a user encounters when uploading a video connected to copyright violations.

While social networks such as YouTube open up space for content to be uploaded by users, it leaves many content related questions aside, as a second thought. While our research was running we looked at what questions are triggered when uploading a video on the platform, what information is the platform giving and how it deals with copyright problems of user generated content. These are some of the things we found as questions around user generated content: Which types of work are subject to copyright? Can a copyright-protected work be used without infringement? Can YouTube determine copyright ownership? What is the difference between copyright and privacy?

The user progresses through a maze by answering a series of questions. It begins with uploading a video on YouTube. The project can be seen as a questionnaire in the form of a labyrinth. At every fork in the path, participant is asked a question which determines his further route. The questions participants are asked are overlooked on YouTube. The labyrinth starts with uploading a video on YouTube. At every fork in the path of the maze, the participant is asked a question about the content of the video. Every answer is a decision which path to take next. In the end of the journey participants are presented with a categorization of the copyright infringement connected to the uploaded content. Showing them the consequences of their actions and a categorization of the kind of user they are.


2nd project

Social circle quartet

After working on smaller projects and experimenting with different approaches, my interest toward on-line social design grew further. It resulted in the project “Social circle quartet”. For this piece I used the method I described earlier, where I take the factors from the environment and use them as a foundation. In this project I looked at how quantified information, describes the user's profile on network social media. On this basis I take the quantified structure which Facebook has and use it as a basis for the piece.

The work resulted in a quartet card game, made from Facebook profiles. Each card contained a profile picture and general statistic about this profile, such as number of friends, likes, posts and the date of joining the social network. I used the profiles of fellow students to create the cards for the game. Creating a game from users profiles focused on the competitive side of social networks, isolated that aspect and amplified it.

The materialized into paper as a game emphasizes the satirical element of the quantification on social networks. It brings classifications from the network social media into real life, where their meaning is challenged. A reason to create a physical object is the transient nature of the information transmitted. The game is still the same, it just uses different content, with which it declares the power that the numbers hold on social networks. By isolating a specific element of the social network; putting into card game makes different status, by bringing it to physicality it makes obvious the process of quantification on which user profiles are based.

3rd project


So far my previous projects dealt more with the on-line environment and the design of it, and its effect. [edit] This research moved toward the content used to socialize as a main subject. With more experiments in the field I also merged my focus with on-line identity. This resulted in the project “SurrogateSearch”/”DoubledOnline”. It is a search engine for Facebook profiles, its main idea is to find a person, with the same posts as you. The result of the search engine is a list starting with the profiles that mostly resemble your own. The project's aim is to show the effect of forwarding links as a way of expression. It takes an exploration of how people share information and express opinions, for example from the abundance of opinions on-line users just find a suitable already existing one, instead of writing it.

For this work I found inspiration in the third chapter of Geert Lovink's book “Networks without a cause” where he talks about the main causes of the eruption of the forwarding society. He states that the two main elements are the abundance of information on-line reflecting different opinions and the social networks. The two of them are the combination of info stress and competition which pushes users to use this method of expression.

The list displayed as a result of the search is an overview of how you use posts, if you are more independent in your expressions then you will find less resemblance in other peoples profiles. The project takes as a ground of research user statements in on-line social shows a critical stand on the ways of expression. The project has two side where one is a critical stand on your ways of expression, but could be a new way to find people who have similar likes to you, and could lead to possible friendships.


In the mundane

With my current research I am again focusing on the content people use to express them selves in online network media. It started from a simple observation on the everyday posts that people make reflecting their current status or doings. This project builds on a similar concept to Vilem Flusser's idea about mediation through images, where happenings turn to events. I see that nowadays happening in social networks.

We live in an experience economy where economic value is being created through experiences. As a basis for my research I am taking the idea of nowadays experience based society. The main concept of this economy is described by Pine and Gilmore in their book “The experience economy”. They present the idea underpinning customer experience management where businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product. What Facebook has given to people is the space to share mundane things and make them into worth memorable events. By doing that it brings meaning to banality, it highlights it and attaches value to it.