Focused Thesis Topic

 It’s all about thesis right now. Thesis, Thesis, THESIS! So, as I am working along, I have noticed that my vision is beginning to be narrowed a little as to what I really care about. So far I’ve had to write my proposal and talk about a lot of plans that were purely hypothetical and pretty vague, but the picture of what I want to focus on is getting clearer. What I care about is that even though it is undeniable that the technology we have produced and are coming to rely on in every aspect of our lives has a long list of benefits, I am not convinced that those benefits outweigh the costs. What are the costs? I cannot make a complete list, for I am not omniscient, but I can see a few being played out in everyday life. One that is particularly interesting to me is the constant push to offload our experiences and knowledge into the collective brain that is the Net and is run by the Hive. This flushing of an individual’s ownership of knowledge for the sake of the Hive has tremendous implications, and I believe, if continued, will significantly alter how we, as humans think. Another effect of our network and technology driven world is a scattering of identity. The Web is vast, and we are encouraged to embrace it all, and with our embrace, it takes a little of us to keep for its own uses.This is overly dramatic, but there are a lot of conflicting messages that can be summed up as quantity versus quality. The Internet pushes quantity, but I believe our natural propensity is for quality.
Screen shots from my video “Asking Google”

The two images I have are beginning to get at some of these ideas. “Asking Google” is simply recording a process that many of us repeat several times a day, asking Google the answer to one of life’s questions. It begins innocently enough with questions we are likely to ask every day, but what happens when the Hive Mind becomes the only source for reasoning and major life decisions. Should a nameless, faceless, anonymous crowd be able to guide my choices?

Four recent images from my “Social Portraits” series

My “Social Portrait” images (of which there are more) simply take profile photos of an individual and create a new digital version of that person. It relates to facial recognition technology, the blurring of our digital identities, and challenging the idea that “more is more”. At a certain point (and I would argue that point is very early) there is information overload, and any information presented stops actually communicating anything. One of the authors I’ve been reading, Jaron Lanier, wrote in You are not a Gadget that while much is talked about the unlimited possibilities of technology, they are inherently limited as long as they are still used to convey information that is not natively digital. Just as a digital photo of a painting may communicate some of its attributes (the color for example), it can’t represent the feel of the canvas or the smell of the materials used, and even if a way was found to represent those things digitally, there would of course be other aspects of being physically present with the painting that a digital representation could not communicate. In the same way, we all have intricately managed profiles, identities, and self-descriptions online as an attempt to digitally represent ourselves. However, even though we know that those digital selves are inherently limited mediums, we are relying on them more and more for our identity formation, which leads to empty meaningless identities and vacant people.

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