Anti-Social Media in Maragiannis, A. (Ed.) Final Paper /Proceedings of the Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts conference, DRHA2014, London

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Abstract

This paper describes the aesthetics and concepts behind the artwork Anti-Social Media.

Introduction

Our online identities are policed at multiple levels: the state, the corporate, the community and the self.

This piece collects and showcases ideas that have not gone through these filtration processes. By inviting contributors to enter their own anonymous submission, Anti-Social Media asks participants to investigate how they share content over modern social networks like Facebook or Twitter.

It aims to encourage social media users to consider how they formulate content to be distributed in the digital realm, and to what extent they adhere to the expectations of social media.

The piece was also created to foreground a concern over whether adhering to these “social media norms” creates a feedback loop, subconsciously influencing the way in which users conduct their lives and thoughts in order to better curate an existence designed for a digital gallery.

The Installation The piece consists of an online repository (antisocialart.co.uk) of anonymous posts fed by multiple Anti-Social Media terminals. Each terminal consists of a freestanding industrial keyboard and a request that participants type what they would share over a social network if they and their audience were anonymous.

There is no monitor attached to the keyboard to discourage self-censorship by participants. The only feedback is a flashing white light to indicate when a keystroke has been recorded The repository randomises the display of the submitted messages, so that visitors will never be able to link the author with the message.

Anti-Social Media 260 The Concept The work is designed as a commentary on social media, specifically on how humans spend a lot of time curating their perfect profile and sharing it with the world. By replacing curation with spontaneity, and the associated identity with detached anonymity, Anti-Social Media questions whether humans are more profound and honest when they are not aware of the exact audience of their “shared” thoughts – and when their thoughts are detached from their self-defined online identities.

If this is indeed the case, then the piece raises a second question – what is the purpose of social media? Is it aiding the human experience, or is it forcing us to exist in a socially acceptable echo chamber, in which only popular opinions, crafted by culturally savvy individuals, can thrive? Are the popular social media experiences creating a harmonisation of viewpoints, and alienating disruptive and unique thought, discourse and forms of expression, by forcing us – from a young age – to be eternally responsible for our comments thanks to the persistence of the web? The design of the work, grey, metallic, perfunctory, demonstrates the above juxtaposition.

If social media is the digital future, a social media demands conformity, are the majority of expressions simply mass-produced? Is Facebook a ubiquitous factory of homogeneous expression? Is private self-expression resigned to the past? Is Twitter not a way of connecting with others, but a way of avoiding our true selves?