In the age of social media, our conversations, gossip, discourses, research, decision making, organizational and artistic work are “intertwingled” (to use Ted Nelson’s playful term) with exponentially exploding repositories of media and information. Nowadays, our everyday communications are embedded with the metadata of search queries, hyperlinks, hashtags and usernames. To the extent that we practice these new techniques of “social taxonomy,” how can we use them to examine and dissect our individual and collective net behaviour(s)?
This is the Great Question we ask ourselves in preparation of the launch of the NetArtizens Project (March 2), created by Furtherfield with Nick Briz and Joseph Yølk Chiocchi. The project is a vehicle for networked collaboration and online discussion leading up to the Art of the Networked Practice | Online Symposium (March 31 – April 2).
Clearly there is a new language emerging in the global information culture: a written language borrowed from the machine, that is, compressed utterances embedded with taxonomies, links and references. This language is literally exploding with meaning and it has permeated our social relations. What is crucial to understand about an emerging language infiltrated by social taxonomies is how we use these mechanisms to aggregate our ideas, concepts, desires, exchanges, collective narratives, and shared histories.
If being an active citizen in the age of social media implies an embrace or at least exposure to this new language, let’s propose the following role: the NetArtizen, one who integrates their individual practice and social communications with the language, artistry and creative potentiality of the network.
To what extent does this adoption of machine language alter our individual and collective behaviours? Are we becoming cyborgs, or are we already post-human, which so many noted media theorists have already questioned. Are we unconsciously adapting to a new mode of online behaviour and addiction to the “buzz” from our mobile devices, which might irrevocably erase the need for direct face-to-face communications?
Consider, for the moment, that it was just a little more than 20 years ago that the Web was born and only a relatively small community of artists, hackers, engineers and designers were practitioners of the network. Even more startling, consider that it was just a little more than 10 years ago that mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook were born, most were created within the past decade, even Twitter. And yet today, a vast and growing population around the world is engaged in the use and creation of networked media. With such an explosive transformation of the global culture, from Silicon Valley to Singapore, practically wherever you go, countries of all sizes and shape are increasingly intertwined with the global network.
Particularly among the digital natives, the world’s NetArtizens are essentially tethered to their mobile devices, a new virtual limb grafted to their changing physical being. If in fact you are a digital native and you have never known a world without the Web, nor a world without social media, and for the Millennials, a world without smart phones, how will you think, communicate, create, and learn in the next 10 or 20 years? The possibilities are unimaginable.
And there is no turning back. Many think there will be an eventual backlash on social media and the whole phenomenon will eventually just go away. But that ignores the history of electronic communications and new media, beginning with the telegraph in 1844, and continuing through the telephone, radio, television, Internet, Web, social media, and smart phone. For nearly 200 years, this evolution has grown at an accelerating pace, beating more and more rapidly, exponentially gaining momentum and a terrifying speed, until today, as we deliver and consume a vast diet of information, we appears to have an insatiable appetite for more information, more data, more machine language.
So for the next several weeks, beginning on March 2 and leading up to the Art of the Networked Practice | Online Symposium (March 31 – April 2), we take time to reflect on the implications of being a NetArtizen, to reflect on our changing sense of self and relation to the world, dramatically altered by the dizzying FLOW of media and communications we digest each and every day.