User:Mihail Bakalov/Trimester 5/GraduateResearchSeminar/ThesisDraft1

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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. The projects aim was to provide a way of expression to people, the same way youtube is doing. Attached to the expression lied the questions copyrights and personal reward. All the recorded videos were devided into two categories and each of them was projected on a wall next to another. 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

Xst 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.

Xth Project ---SelfiesResearch

My research into the construction of the on line self continued as I started exploring selfies as part of users on-line profile as a portrait of the person on social networks. More particularly how they take an active part in peoples on-line selves, what influence is applied to them and how do they present us. Looking at these self-portraits as a reflection of the self, where the user is motivated to create them as it helps keeping the coherence and stability of the social I. The users identity formed and altered by on-line social networks creating an extension of the self. This extension is separated from the real self, presenting an amplification of the real individual and separating from him, forming it's own new look, situated on-line presenting it self and available to anyone who wants to see it. As a part of my selfie research I started working on an experiment called “Get rid of your self”

▪ Get rid of your self

This project project focused on the content used to socialize as a main subject. With more experiments in the field I also merged my focus from previous researches with on-line identity. The piece 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. [ you need more detail here, make a synopsis of his argument, this is too quick, allow arguments to develop so the reader understands] 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.

▪ Youloop (V2_ exhibition)

In the project I took an exploration in on line social networks and user generated content. In this social experiment I built a local social platform focusing on footage recorded by participants inside the exhibition space. The project consists of a website and two projections on the walls of the space. Through the website were done recordings of videos and uploaded to the platform. The two projections with size about two by three meters standing one next to another. They were presenting the videos uploaded to the platform. This experiment involved also a commercial element for exploring the motivation of participants. When people recorded videos with their smart phones and uploaded them to the local platform they loose their copyrights over the footage. After the upload the person is presented with two options. The first is to donate it for free to an open public one line station providing download to anyone for free. The second is a platform where people receive monetary reward for their videos. One projection was presenting the videos for which it was paid and the other the rest. Every link you click ▪ Every link you click Every link you click is a browser extension,available for installation as an add-on for Google Chrome. It collects visual information from the links clicked by a person while surfing through the internet. It catalogues the images from the links and it creates an image collage of all the collected visual information. The script puts together all the Images placing one next to each other chronologically and hierarchically. The end result of the script depicts a users surfing flow from one website to another. For example if a person opens a page and within this page he clicks on links to two other pages, the image collage will depict this sequence. The add-on takes the visual information that is connected to the hyperlink function in the site. (why not add fractals)?Arrange the visual information into a fractal structure, depicting the relations between the websites? See it and decide! [how ?]

Xnd 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.

-=-=-==- current research -=-=-==-

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. Nowadays businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product — the "experience". As a basis for my research I am taking the idea of nowadays experience based society applied in on line social networks. The main concept of this economy is described by Pine and Gilmore in their book “The experience economy”. The authors present previous economic drives for the past years building up till today. Making an overview how humanity has passed from goods based business, the emergence of brands driven market, which charge for distinctive tangible things, afterwards to service businesses, charging for the activities a person performs. Followed by the experience business which charges for the feeling customers get by engaging in it. An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. To illustrate this lets say that in the service conomy a person can order or buy a product for example a birthday cake which cost 10 times more than the packaged engredients. In the progression of economic value we don't make the cake, we don't even throw the party, instead we spend more money and outsource the entire event to a company that does it for us. They present the idea underpinning customer experience management where businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product. I am seing this in nowadays happening on social networks. 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.(INTRODUCTION FROM PROPOSAL)


Introduce projects on the way through my research

At the beginning of my research for my graduation project I took a look into on-line social networks, how users create content on them, which components of these platforms are mostly used and tried to experimenting in this field. How the user creates an on-line personality, transformed from the design of the social platform and established modes of behavior. Currently my research is on exploring the influence of other people upon the self and how they contribute into our on-line profile(as building identity). How people in your social circle in on-line environment are able to add content and link materials to your profile, with which expanding it, altering and restructuring it. Focusing on the aspect of the internet personalities as comprised of external elements. Exploring and interpreting the proverb “Who you surround yourself with, the same you become” in online social platforms. Overall usage statistics of Facebook show that it's more common for users to post content on other people's profiles in the spirit of sharing information and socializing, rather than posting on their own wall. Part of the statistic show normally people have one out of four post on their wall made by them and the others added from their social circle. That makes this social platform more organized on the reflection of others and the contribution of external elements.

This project consist of creating a platform mimicking Facebook. It would be similar to a Facebook analysis application where you get certain emphasis on a type of content. Focusing on the data such as posts, tags, likes and comments linked from the social circle of a user to him. Copying that information to the new platform and constructing a profile from this secondhand data. Taking data from Facebook and putting it in a similar interface like a page with a vertical scroll were the information is tiled up, one above the other. This platform would also consist of a digital avatar, a mesh object having implemented inside visually all the data from a person's profile as the texture of this 3D shaped avatar. This mesh consists of all the secondhand data displayed as its skin, which circulates around the sides of the object. The structure of the shape would depend on the amounts of specidic type of content, each part of the mesh corresponding to a different type of data. If a person wants to create a profile on the new platform all he has to do is become friends on Facebook with the installation's profile. In that way the on-line application software of the installation would have access to your data and would copy it to the new platform. The copied information would consist of tagged and posted content, likes and comments from the social circle of the person's. For this project I considered a possible installation, which would consist of a dual projection on the walls of the space and a touch screen controller, for example a tablet. One projection would display the digital avatar, the other will visualize the data that is being added to the person's profile, displaying the new platform interface of the person's wall showing the last five added items. The tablet would be for interacting with the avatar. A participant would be able to transform, pull and stretch the shape . This transformation of the shape would generate data in the place of alteration. It would send posts, links, pictures with tags and comments from the profile of the installation to the person's profile. The avatar would be fed with data and will grow bigger. This data would be sent to the person's profile on the new platform. When entering the exhibition space, a viewer would be presented with the dual screen projection and a tablet. The touch screen surface of the tablet is provided as a controller for allowing a participant to interact with the digital visualization. One can either start interacting with the current profile or choose another one. Both projections would be updated in real-time when interaction is present. I am doing this project to explore how our on-line identity is comprised out of external elements. By presenting the isolated data which is showing the influence of others upon a person and focusing on how easy is the modification a person's profile done over his social circle.

[TITEL!]Construct a self-portrait from facebook data in the form of a story/film

Afterwards I took another exploration of the external components that comprise people online and I focused on the image that a network media platform forms about the user. The piece started with using the components from my newsfeed as a bases to construct my self-portrait. The goal of this project is building a fictional documentary story/film from the filtered world that Facebook is presenting to me. Focusing on how this information describes, reflects and effects me, creating an image of me through constructing my personal online world. In network media platforms such as Facebook, users, by feeding information into the system, such as 'likes' and 'interests', construct a bases for the function of the system. When creating a profile on the platform people enter their personal biographical information, fields of interest, affiliations and favorite activities. From this input the algorithm defines what to present to the user. The creation of the personalized feed is constructed from invisible functions which determine what is displayed, resulting into a filtered version of the world, shifted and translated by the system. I want to take my newsfeed and with its content build a representation of me. The process of creating my self-portrait would include a transformation of the data, for example from one medium to another, with that I will try to bring specific aspect of the content. I could also use another filtration of the gathered content in order to emphasize on the way the platform prescribes to my character. My prototypes take the content from the newsfeed which represents the environment and social circle, I focus on the idea that it has an effect on me. I would like to use the components from the newsfeed as a bases for my narrative and with them construct my fictional self-portrait. So far in my experiments I'm trying out different interfaces, searching for a way to explore different aspects of the data and to find a suitable way of presenting the specific aspect which would help me build the structure of the narrative. The portrait would be a layout/a map of all the content placed on it. During my current exploration I found ways to point out some of the method which are typical for the functioning of the network social platform. I am taking the element of non-sequentiality in the results that the facebook newsfeed produces and using it in my approach of building the self-portrait of influencing external elements. Taking the out of sequence element and pushing/taking it to the extreme, breaking the feed into small bits, which are left for the user to be explored in a non-linear way. In some further experiments I'll try to touch upon other features of the platform, like the invisibility of the decision making algorithm, which I will try to present as a blind interface. An expected outcome will be an audio-visual story/film/narration about my constructed identity.