Client: New York Institute of Technology
Date: September 2013
Tools & Mediums: Illustrator
Type: Logo Design
Is there a definitive transparency to what we put online versus who we are in real life? Can our identities be fully encapsulated by what we portray on the web? Through the way we dress, speak, and act, do we cautiously edit how we expose ourselves in real life like we do online?
Within the last decade there has been an apparent and ever-increasing emergence of social media technologies. Facebook and YouTube, for instance, are multi-billion dollar companies that rank number three and number five, respectively, as the most used internet brands of 2010. With the materialization of such social media technologies, the distinctive boundaries between the physical world and the digital have begun to dissipate: we share our thoughts through Facebook status updates, have spurts of consciousness through Tweets, impart our most intimate memories through Photostreams, and reveal even the most asinine aspects of our lives through video blogs. Yes, one can equate what we see on the screen as a mere digital depiction of who we are in real life. Of course, once we pass away, what happens to our identities when everything we put out there is preserved as bits of data in external servers?
CharnelHouse is a psychological and social exploration of both the finite and infinite aspects of our digital identities – identities based upon our interactions and intrapersonal relationships within the sphere of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, Vimeo, and Tumblr. It is an installation that serves as a tangible memorialization of the individual’s virtual life: the deceased’s online identity is preserved and displayed within the structure and is only accessed through an “in memoriam card”, an RFID-embedded card that includes one’s causation of death, a QR code linking to his or her personal website, and statistics regarding his or her social media usage in comparison to national averages. Once activated, the user enters the enclosed space (a metaphor for the transition between the living, corporeal world to a virtual afterlife) and is visually and audibly immersed in the deceased’s social media existence.
Studio photography with Patrick Taylor.
As a component to the overall CharnelHouse thesis, each card is encoded with its unique RFID number and encased in acrylic and bound by vinyl. When the user places the card along an RFID reader (which itself is enclosed in a skull), he or she accesses an individual’s social media life.
Cards include one’s causation of death, a QR code linking to his or her personal website, and statistics regarding his or her social media usage in comparison to national averages:
1) Facebook: Daily usage of Facebook.
2) Twitter: Daily usage of Twitter.
3) Network: Number of online friends, contacts, and other connections across all major social media sites.
4) Music: Summation of weekly logins to Last.fm and the number of songs in the subject’s music library.
5) Video: Summation of videos watched and videos uploaded to Vimeo and YouTube.
6) Vanity: A combination of the number of photos the subject owns on Facebook and Flickr, as well as the number of photos of the subject (as tagged by other users).
7) Blogging: The amount of weekly blog posts the subject writes outside of Twitter or Facebook.
8) Online Legacy: An overall numerical value that defines the subject’s use of social media. The higher the number, the more the subject participates in online activities – and hence, the more likely his or her digital remnants exist on the internet.
9) Requiem: Most played song according to Last.fm, iTunes, or – if neither technology is habitually used – personal reflection.
10) Causation of Death: Subjects are asked to think how they would most likely die as opposed to how they want to die. The cause of death is purely an introspective matter and forces the subject to analyze his or her medical history, family history, and lifestyle choices. Though the actual causation of death is almost entirely indiscernible, the artist allows the subject to realistically provide his or her own demise for the sake of sensitivity.
11) Year of Birth/Death: All birth years are correct, but based on the causation of death, the artist chooses the year of death to add a sense of uncertainty, surprise, and that the date of death cannot determined by the subject.