Tag Archives: or the Madness of God

..:: datamummification + madness ::..

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Judith Donath stopped in at Media Tech Tonic sponsored at MassArt’s The Dynamic Media Insitute to discuss The Sociable Media Group’s latest exhibit ‘Connections’ at The MIT Museum. A lot of amazing work … I checked out some of the people involved in the project work earlier in the day … specifically looking deeper into some of the previous work in visualization and interface design. I particularly enjoyed Alex Dragulescu’s ‘Spam Architecture’ as I had previously attempted to approach the topic of troublesome eMeddlings in my own ‘Operation Enduring Email’ …

but seriously folks … the jist of the discourse tonight centered around a new ‘new media’ twist on the concept of portraiture … excellent lecture, fantastic work all around … i especially loved the participatory installation ‘metropath(ologies)’ … such a dream project for me … the overflow of information projected on a cityscape model, a veritable maze of data + architecture to get lost in … amazing work + the best of the collection shown at the talk … i gotta get down there + check it out

i’ve digressed once again … so, back to portraiture … a quick whirlwind history of the portrait as an artform … a golden bust of royalty from greco-roman times, renaissance-painted realism complete with symbolic items and less idealized facial features, 20th century cubistic renditions capturing a more abstract essence of Picasso’s art dealer, and for the 21st century …

the portrait of the micromoment involved feeds from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Seesmic and other multivariate social networking sites the your modernday eCitizen gladly pours information into with feverish up-to-the-minute details about the minutae of our daily lives … ‘Data Portraits’ took the unsuspecting tweets of the twitterverse to create a portrait visualization of each user … words { the smallest common denominator allowing some balance between private and public exposure } from the user | participant’s tweetstream make up the outline of head, neck and shoulders … words on the left are from recent tweets, words along the right of the datahead silhouette are the most-used throughout your tweetstream history … the words of each portrait pop forth from the black backdrop muchlike a smooth data-persona tagcloud, quite literally outlining your wordstream of the moment for you

what strikes me the most about these linear-textual gestural snapshots is the cocoonlike and ghostly bodily presence of each figure … there’s also a wonderful sense of swirling … the words seem to envelope or mummify a preset human form … besides certain key words that pop out { i am guessing the word size follows the same sort of rules of frequent use that most tagcloud methodologies implement }, there is little differentiation from portrait to portrait … the shape of the head, neck and shoulders remains the same … and the words simply outline or ‘contain’ the previously human form

at first i thought that the datamummification might be a purposeful artisitic and aesthetic choice … i don’t think i get the sense that my portrait would look that much different than anyone else as far as physical attributes are concerned … same height, same weight, same shape, same lack of eyes, mouth, ears and hair … you are your words in these portraits … you are the ghostly echo-trace of your micro-bloggings … a bit sobering … a little scary … and unless you are lucky enough to have micro-entered some emotionally-laden and unique words over the last year or so, you are just as unique as everyone else on Twitter …

part of me wants to think these implications are an intentional affect of the visualization as portraiture … and if nothing else, perhaps we can see this as a subconscious expression of the artists involved … maybe there is no true participatory auto-magical means to create this sort of portrait … or perhaps the effect is completely intentional … a statement about machine-produced { app-influenced } human behavioral modificationthe media we use shapes our behavior, and now we quite literally all itch to tell it all right now … a sort of electronic OCD …

another memorable concept that came up tonight was the notion of ‘pure knowledge’ … an amazing question from the crowd mentioned Elie Weisel’s Zalmen, Or the Madness of God … in the book a person comes to know God, but not as the bearded, old white guy in the clouds oft-depicted by Michelangelo … but instead as the concept of ‘pure knowledge’ … the question specifically asked tonight had to do with the current proliferation of information ‘out there’ for all of us to access and whether or not we, as humanity, are reaching a moment of ‘pure knowledge’ … my own answer to this concept delves into questioning ‘knowledge’ … information is not knowledge … accumulation of datapoints provides no higher wisdom to the individual or to society at large … consuming data alone, collecting data does not translate into knowledge or a deeper understanding … in fact, my personal belief is that knowledge and wisdom are not even closely related … and neither can ever be thought of as ‘pure’ …