A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of co-presenting on a panel with An Xiao Mina and Ben Valentine. Below is my excerpt of the full write up by all three of us published to The Civic Beat! Exciting!! Please feel free to share thoughts and comments. Or feel free to connect with me via Twitter @deedottiedot
* * * *
After the wonderful opportunity of co-presenting with Ben Valentine and An Xiao Mina of The Civic Beat, I have to admit, I actually looked up the term “honeymoon period.” The good ole internet actually provided two distinct definitions. Apparently the honeymoon phase for diabetics signals the start of insulin treatment while the Urban Dictionary states, “The three-month maximum period between a person’s entry into a new situation and a person’s complete screwing up of said situation or essential elements of it. This phenomenon is backed by massive amounts of studies in social psychology and even more massive amounts of personal testimony from bitter, angry people.”
The second definition sounds about right. But this reliance on the internet for research needs, a good laugh, and engaging in human rights activism has some disadvantages to it as well. Taking into account the very name of our panel, we tasked ourselves the tough question of whether the internet utopian vision and ideologies of the earlier internet still rang true today. We had three different ways to discuss the question. Not so surprisingly, I answered with a desire to not forget the body and our sensations. From social networking to internet bots to memes, my plea to the audience for the evening was to not forget our sense of self and body in this highly mobile age.
While technology moves at a feverishly rapid pace, we may find ourselves lost even before we figure out the best way to look, research, and obtain exactly what we need. I decided to focus on how new media artists use the internet and mobile technologies that incorporate the body somehow. Whether through augmented reality or applications to actually embodiment of a fictitious or mythical character or creature online, I found myself interested in how new media artists are dismantling such ideologies.
During the presentation, one of the individuals I focused on was new media artist John Craig Freeman. He uses augmented reality in his artistic practice, which is heavily used by advertisers to overlay landscapes and buildings with branding for marketing purposes. But Freeman uses this technology to interrogate the politics of space. Essentially, anyone with a smart phone and the internet can find out about the objective and purpose of each of his interventionist projects.
For the past year, I have examined his piece, Border Memorial: Fronteras de Los Muertos, which enables a viewer to download augmented reality application Layar. Once downloaded, the user has the option of travelling to specific locations, in this case, the US Mexican border, and holding their phone to the landscape. Calacas or skeletons appear on the screen. These serve as markers to specific spots within the landscape where the remains of migrants attempting to cross the border have been found and identified.
Now, I don’t want to end on such a sad note but you’re probably asking yourself why I’m so interested in addressing the original question or problem statement with emphasis on such a tricky concept of embodiment. Quite frankly, the word alone makes me feel like I’m falling into an abyss. But it also reminds me that the internet has a way of making us forget about our bodies and our senses. Rather, it amplifies this need for us to only focus on vision.
Perhaps, my academic research and investment in in real life (IRL), physical activism prompts me to try and strike this unending balancing act. While I straddle the lines of loving and hating the internet, I’m forced to have a relationship with it. So I wonder if there was ever a honeymoon period to begin with? Am I not in the dating phase of still getting to know this rhizomatic entity that continues to excite yet infuriate me? Ha! Sure sounds like one a rewarding relationship and like any relationship…one that takes A LOT of work to understand.
Full write up can be read here.