User:Mihail Bakalov/Trimester 6/GraduateResearchSeminar/ThesisDraft2

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User, reflection and identification

The following chapter will elaborate on my methods and the development of my recent work 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 or 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.

project: Who knows, left or right? {content infringement}

Such an example is the project project “Who knows, left or right?”. One of my first attempts dealing with on-line social spaces started within the field of copyright infringement. “Who knows, left or right?” in collaboration with Lidia Pereira focused 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. Questions that are obvious, but not well represented or miss presented. Enquiries about the authorship of the audio and video content, the familiarity of the user with the copyright related to the used material. In the relation to using found material what is the user familiar with its copyrights and how it should be treated. The questions that are stated in the maze are similar to the ones stated in the Youtube upload form, but are broken down into simpler and easier to understand. 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? It begins with uploading a video on YouTube. The user progresses through a maze by answering a series of questions. 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. At every fork in the path of the maze, the participant is asked a question about the content of the video. The encountered questions are assign towards audio and visual layers of the uploaded material such as whether the uploaded clip has music and if that music is created by the uploader. Another question would state if the user is using not his own material, is he aware of the copyrights on that material.Every answer is a decision which path to take next. There are eight exits of the maze in total. They represent categories to which the participant falls into due to his answers during the journey to upload. Each one presents the level of knowledge, consciousness and usage of person's uploaded material. The exits of the maze are laid out in a structure starting from a total awareness and adherence of the rules on YouTube to a total ignorance and non-compliance of them.


During my first initiative to experiment with online social networks, I focused on the content through which we socialize. 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 part of the visual identity one creates in social networks. Afterwards my research connected all the elements that take an active part in peoples' on-line selves, what influence is applied to them and how they present us. More particularly how the content that we socialize with is a reflection of the self, where the user is motivated to publish them as it helps keeping the coherence and stability of the social I. The users identity formed and altered by on-line social networks creates 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 research I started working on an experiment called “Get rid of your self”.

project: Get rid of your self {search engine for the content}

Continuing my research on the on-line identity on network media platforms and particularly socializing through content. This project focused on on-line social networks and the content such as posts featuring links 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 script installed into the browser(Chrome and Firefox) which has an interface of 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. The script works by analyzing your profile's wall and gathers all the links you have posted. Afterwards starts comparing it to other people's shared content. As a result of the search on the top it shows the profile with highest percentage of resemblance to your posts. This piece is a part of my exploration how forwarding links narrows down and equalizes peoples expressions. Focusing on how users post links without any actual opinion or statement. Focusing on how equal people's expressions can become, or expressionless. The project takes an exploration of how people share information, 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 first and second 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.

“No body has enough patience to search through the rubbish result and sort out something useful. Instead we surf 'n' search for perfect serendipity with our eyes wide shut.” p26

In similarities to on-line searching this illustrates how people proceed with linking which has become very close to likes. As people are just looking for something that fulfills their statement without any additional explanation, or very little. Normally the shared content is something prefered, fancied so it doesn't engage in a constructive criticism.

“If you do not agree with a statement, then you ignore it. You make a non-link. If a video is uncool, you do not recommend it. You skip boring pictures and do not listen to bad music.” p14

Linking is more and more similar to liking in social networks. As soon as we find something interesting we start forwarding, blogging, twittering and linking to our latest discoveries and we leave the other behind. This is the way the self-referential mechanism works which avoids through self-statement and true dialogue. Social bookmarking changed the way people relate to sources.

“The move from link to like as the dominant web currency symbolizes the shift in the attention economy from search-driven navigation to the self-referential or gated dwelling in social media.” p27

More and more personal arguments become become rare, because of the social thumb like is more easier and requires less effort. This symbolizes the shift in the attention economy on-line, everything moves in fast pace and in order to keep up people play the easiest move they can. This type of economy constructs on the notion of ‘attention’ which is mobilized as an economic category within theories of the Internet, framed in terms of neoclassical or mainstream economics theory. It uses different measurement from classical models such as in ‘clicks’, ‘downloads’, ‘likes’, ‘views’, ‘followers’, and ‘sharings’ of digital objects. The function of this economy has its effect back on the resource it is using, which is by consuming attention, makes it scarce. The wealth of information creates poverty that in its turn produces the conditions for a new market to emerge. The fast pace of this economy provokes attitude which avoids true dialogue, there is no personality without authentic expression. Users find meaning in the chaotic, momentary likes, leaving short messages, the design of the network media platforms and less space for personal reflection and were not designed to facilitate debates with its thousands of contributors. The effect of the attention economy reflects in other ways of voicing our thoughts, we strive for the fastest but less detailed statements. The abundance of information actually shrinks peoples articulation and the alienation in social networks trigger the way of socialization through the liking. This has spread as a methodology into the forms of expression which have become more and more referential. Links become more similar to likes because of the abundance of information and the lacking of own opinion when expressing through an others opinion. In this project users can check their ways of expression, after a user allows the script to process his data, a result of the search script displays a list of other users to who resembles mostly. If a person is more independent in his/her expressions then less resemblance in other peoples profiles will be found. The project takes as a ground of research user statements/expressions in on-line social networks o shows a critical stand on the ways of expression. The project has two sides where one it can be seen as a critical stand on the decay people's way of expression, but could be a new way to find people who have similar likes and interests to you and could lead to possible friendships.

project: Youloop {platform for content}

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.

Creating a social network in the exhibition space that acts as an interpreter of the space. Using video recordings as the only content that can provide enough information for a story, the most popular and relied to document/represent reality. Used in case as representation of the space and the experience of the people. Exploration of the participants motivation, communication or monetary reward.   People recorded some of the events that happened during the exhibition but also created their own performances. Two categories of footage could be distinguished on the platform: one involving documentation of the events happening and another of self-performing actions directed towards the person. For me what stayed interesting in this project was curating this network media and observing the behavior of the participants.  This social experimentation helped me identify a number of key research interests. Playing around with motivation showed me how to trigger interest in people and lead them to a specific path; it also made me realize I would like to see how the content created from users is more facinating to me as an act of socialization and a form of expression. My further experiments on content as expression and on another point of view how different medium transformations provide different interpretations pointing out a specific side of it.

project: Social circle quartet {the diff function of networked social platform - the amplification of the self}

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. Representing a person in reality with data from his/her profile from on-line social networks. The simplicity of transferring information from one medium to another. This project succeeded in placing virtual into physical and exposing the different function of the networked media into reality. The aim is to display how the rules configured into the virtual become odd and inapplicable when transferred into reality. How the factors of identity characteristics do not fit into the physical world and how different the functions of self-categorization and socialization on and off line are. Applying the quantified identity on social networks with an element of gamification to make a juxtaposition. The selected profiles which were printed on the cards were from all the current students in the Media Design & Communication program at Piet Zwart Institute. The game was played by a smaller group of the same students from which the source profile content was taken from. The players being familiar with all the profiles and knowing the people depicted on the cards compared the virtual and real and the differences in the characterization and quantification of identity popped up. Combining both realities into one medium created an emphasis on the image people create on network social media and the effects of the content we publish on the platform.


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

With my current research I am again focusing on the content people use to express them selves in on-line 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. In reference to the creation of linear writing Vilem Flusser in his book “Towards a philosophy of photography” says:

“In doing so, they transcoded the circular time of magic into the linear time of history. They created "historical consciousness" and history in the proper meaning of the term.”

He states that with linear writing happenings were turned into events. When an action becomes recorded it gains part of history, placing it in a time-line. While a happening passes by and leaves no traces. With writing, which prescribes events, assigning characters and defining/describing. This way events become discourses. The same way social networks amplify happenings to become events by registering them. Gaining "historical consciousness" brings distinction and definition. This is part of the functions of on-line social media which applies to all the content published on it. A tweet about an ordinary topic or for example the weather today, becomes a subject of discussion. It creates a discourse and becomes an event.

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.

“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.” (The experience economy – Pine & Gilmore, 1998, p3)

The authors present the main concept and makes an overview how humanity has passed from goods based business, the emergence of brands driven market. Charging for distinctive tangible things, afterwards to service businesses, changing for the activities a person performs. Followed by the experience business which charges for the feeling customers get by engaging in it. To illustrate this lets say that in the service economy a person can order or buy a product for example a birthday cake which cost 10 times more than the packaged ingredients. 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 see this nowadays happening on social networks. What Facebook has given to people is the space to share mundane things and make them into memorable events. By doing that it brings meaning to banality, it highlights, attaches value to it. Social networks construct memory for users. Posting a statement on these platforms, allows users to in touch with other people, allows their content to be forwarded, to get a bigger reach out of the author's social circle. The marketing side of digital transformation is customer experience. The on-line marketing which network social media brings the user as a center and user generated material is feeding the mechanism of the system.

1 project during grad research {What experience I provide, what my experience provides, what others provide me through their experience}

From the begging of my graduation project research I was interested in on-line social networks and the content that is used for socialization between users. In network social media experience economy works through socializing and elevating the content to become memory and provide experience, in turn the design of the platform has the influence to shape us – also to provide other the power to shape us, which is done by the socializing material. The space the platform offers and the experiences we create there through the user generated content effects us and effects others. It constructs our digital self and we construct also other through engaging with them. On the way of the research for my grad project I tried clearing out my fascinations and creating projects around them. At the beginning of my exploration I took a look at how users create content on on-line social networks, which components of these platforms are mostly used and tried to experiment in this field. How the user creates an on-line personality, transformed from the design of the social platform and established modes of behavior.

“We constantly login, create profiles, and post status updates to present our Self. We use the free web but it has its own take back on us. “ “The cyber-prophets were wrong: there is no evidence that the world is becoming more virtual. Rather the virtual is becoming more real; it wants to penetrate and map out our real lives and social relationships.” (Geert Lovink - Networks Without a Cause, p22)

The virtual has become more and more part of our lives, and we are effected by its use. The design of the platform has transformed the interaction with people, how we present our selfs and communicate to others. Currently my research is on exploring the influence network social media 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. In Facebook users are able associate content with other people. For example to write on another user's wall, tag users on photos. Many ways inhibiting users from your social circle. And also the other way around. My Focus is 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. With time I noticed an interesting quincidens in people's profile on social networks and conducted my own research on Facebook. It ocused on the usage of the wall for posting content. Which people post, how often, what is the ration of other people's posts and the owner of the wall. The result was more than 75% of users in my social circle had 1 to 5 ration more posts published not by the owner of the wall. Afterwards I looked up overall usage statistics of Facebook conducted by researchers which show that it's more common for users to have posts on their wall from other people, rather than their own posts. Tagging other users makes conversation easy and makes sharing more likely. The functions of the network have rules that are centered around socialization, through which on affect of alienation is committed.

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 specific 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. I left this project aside because there were too many levels of complification, which raised questions the work was not able to answer, or take a position on them.

Current graduation work: /NOWHERE/

Following my interest in the content that is amplified by the experience economy on on-line social media I centered around a more simpler idea, focusing on a specific type of user generated content. The type of this material resembles mundane topics is used for self-promotion and socialization. Mostly about dull topics usual for small talk , such as the weather. Social networks provide space for user generated content which automatically is elevated with a certain value, boosted up. I am interested in these materials, because they are written by people which consists of a character and personality. These although bland statements have their specificities and reflect a person behind them. The etymology of the word mundane comes from the Latin 'mundus' and means the world. Having this as an inspiration I want to take a look mundane messages/talk/expressions on twitter from another point of view. For me the world is something interesting and exciting. Although the everyday actions have their repetition, they come with variations, which brings the richness in the everyday and diversity. Focusing on ordinary posts from twitter and seeing them as something that has fertile meaning and exploring opportunities to extract more from that content. By placing them one after another presents the sameness of the statement, but also points out the small differences in between. When starting this research I looked at related past works on the topic of mundane. One interesting view I found was from the Situationists movement. The term psychogeography invented by Guy Debord and described in the "Theory of the Dérive" in 1958, a document which essentially serves as an instruction manual.

“In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there” (Guy Debord, 1958, p20)

The situationists reading of the world involves a new mind set and tackle in a new direction where the environment leads and triggers the perception. The new space that Debord intended to create carries a possibility for activity not formerly determined by one besides the individual. Letting go of the mundane and searching to approach reality in a new way. This view on the topic neglects the everyday, without even exploring it. From my view I find this neglected elements very interesting and with this project my intentions are to show a hidden side of the mundane.

  • [structure of the narrative]

The collected messages are arranged to form an emotionally charged narrative that becomes leading, leaving the initial meaning of the content secondary. The idea of the arranging tweet after tweet on the same everyday topic, from different people, is to create a poetic narration. With this treatment the mundane is presented with its diversity and richness, which reflects the differences within people's expressions.

The new meaning of the text will become a consequence of the narration which lacks a normal structure of a story. It is an emotional tale which focuses on expression, without any beginning or end. The tediousness of the content is broken through repetition, bringing up a possible poetic meaning of the messages.

  • [form narration]

The content taken up from the platform resembles monologue statements. The same way it sounds when it is spoken out in the constructed narrative. The fictional story that is constructed consist of messages which are excerpt from posts of different users. During my prototyping the approaches towards the treatment of the content different. All my prototypes feature tweets from different people on the same topic, but differ in the later treatment.

fictional* This treatment which different tweets from different users in one fictional character. From the source material I made a narrowed selection focusing on the same type of comment on a subject. The scraped tweets have the same meaning but different lexical structure. In this case the small difference between the tweets became the accent of the narration. The structure of the narrative morphed from time to time, for example from time to time a rhythm was created as the same word appeared at the end of each tweet.

noise build up* One approach of creating the narration is to combine posts on one topic with a very specific articulation on a specific opinion on chosen theme. Fictional character, where one voice represents one character speak out sequenced one after another, where each carries out a monologue for about 5 to 10 min. In the middle of each narration the voice starts to overlap it self and builds up into noise gradually. By the end of the monologue words can no longer be distinguished, this resembles into a noise which becomes ambiance sound accompanying the visuals.

  • [verbalize text]

By nature the tweets on mundane topics are quite straightforward and dry, but when being verbalized the content becomes something more. The emotion of the voice adds flavor and opens them up to be interpreted. Variety in articulation brings richness to the meaning and triggers the poetic in the simplicity of the text. The feeling that comes through the spoken tweets amplifies the content similar to the way content in the first place is boosted up by the social platform.

  • [topics of narration]

My choice of subjects reflects the meaning of mundane which are presenting the world around the people. The methodology of working with them reflect the idea of poetics inside everyday repetitive acts. The created narration was the start and from there I was experimenting with different visuals accompanying the sound.

  • [Visuals]

Fixed shot. This method featured experiencing the stillness of an image which has occuring small changes in it. An abstract clip which present a view from a window on a rainy day, landscape opening to see the outside. The focus is on the drops on the glass, the background is left blurry, without anything concrete to attract attention, except for some trees which are moving from the wind. During this clip the visual don't change content wise, but have moving objects which don't effect the image permanently. The visuals seem endless, there is no beginning or end because there is no outcome or . The same way the narrative costructs it self with no goal to seek, or to arrive at a point of resolution. It is staying in the same place as it starts. Slow-mo. Another approach was filming a tram journey through a city. The shooting was done from a tram looking out from a rear window. It was recorded in a high frame rate. The slow-mo presented another tempo to reality. bringing more perception to everydayness, more detailed information about actions. By stretching the time-line the emotions was enlarged. The motion that the visuals create brings more liveness to the scene, the poeticsness of mundane here resembles into the constant flow, the people's movement become similar to dancing. It was a travel without It has which resembles the topic of the text spoken out. In a similar way the narration flow without any direction or point of arrival.

  • [the construction of work in an exhibition]

The following part of the text will present two form to place the work in an exhibition.

  • Black box loop projections

This form includes of constructing an enclosed dark space(black box), with four screens hanging from the ceiling. The screens are positioned in a square and have space between each other so visitors can go inside to the center of the space. The clips projected are four footages taken from a tram. They are synced as if the tram journey flows from one screen to another. The surrounding projections are to construct an immersive experience. The videos are edited to loop seamlessly, where the end of the video merges with the beginning. The videos don't have their own sound track, but only one.

  • Tunnel

This form of the work consists of an enclosed dark space. On two opposing sides of the space are placed two projection screens. They construct a tunnel where on both sides footage from the tram was projected, as if being inside a tram and looking outside from the rear windows.


Guy Debord and described in the "Theory of the Dérive" in 1958

Vilem Fluser – towards a philosophy of photography

Geert Lovink – Networks without a cause

Tiziana Terranova – Attention economy

B. Joseph Pine  & James H. Gilmore, "The Experience Economy" 1998

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