Something New a Day, Day 4: Create a Fake Social Network
I was unable to post yesterday as I spent all day creating the fake social network and then felt so unwell I went to bed. Anyhow you will probably wonder why anyone would want to create a fake social network if it wasn’t for bad reasons.
Well I have been working on an art project for a couple of weeks that questions our relationship to social media and whether there is any real distinction between our public and private spheres anymore. There seems to be a blurring of the lines and people are almost looked at as weird if they are not happy to give up all their innermost thoughts, feelings, aspirations and experiences for the world to see.
I have spent days pixelating images of family members so that only skin is pixelated, all hair, clothes etc are untouched and obscuring other faces (the Mad Hatter and MArch Hare have black “censor” strips over their eyes. This is to make people think about the photos they publish on line. We all take photos, there are millions taken every day a lot of these land up online. Quite often the photos we publish to the Internet (because that is what we are doing) have other people in, quite often these people have not given informed consent for you to use their image: this is particularly true in the case of young children and incapable of giving it. Do we then have a right to publish such photos? Unless an image is deemed news worthy or of public interest (so a celebrity buying baby clothes: sadly) you have to get a person’s permission before it is published in traditional media (including TV), this is why you often see pixelated people in an news item or on a TV show: they have not given their consent and signed a form. Why then is the same not true of how images are used on the world’s largest media platform: the Internet?
Although I could not find their sample size, Statisticbrain.com gave the following figures for social network use based on 2012 figures:
These figures illustrate that 58% of those surveyed admitted to being on at least one social network. Given that these figures are over a year old and access to social networks have probably gotten easier globally this figure is probably a large under-estimate.
Given the huge growth in social media and it being the main way we maintain networks in the twenty first century is it not time that we have a proper debate about what we give away on them? I question whether people would really care. It seems strange to me that we all get terrified of Governments and foreign administrations spying on us when our most intimate details are probably given away for free every day. Even the most private moments can be snapped on a phone and then uploaded onto a social network and go viral within minutes.
Is it because we want to have control over what we give away? Or is it (as I suspect) simply that most of us do not even give it a second thought. We see these as still private spaces where we are among people who care: this is untrue; the vast majority of us connect with people of whom we know nothing every day. Are we safe? We don’t really know.
There is a growing moral panic about paedophiles trailing the internet looking for children to groom. We are all terrified over who is connecting with our children. We are terrified yet we wilfully give out their names, ages, achievements, likes/dislikes, schools, whereabouts. photos, etc on a daily basis. Viewable by anyone who is in our “network”, or if not private: Anyone.
Are we absolved from guilt, a form of unwitting compliance in internet crimes then? Are we really victims when we use social media and its apps to let people know where we are at any given time. Whether our house is empty, if we’re going to be home any times soon?
I think there are so many debates to be had about privacy, crime and liability with our increasing use of and reliance on such networks.
Anyhow I digress.
I am not on facebook or anything similar; I have to admit I am on twitter although I only got the original account because of a failed business I was trying to promote. Due to this and the not wanting to create an account on it I decided the only way to show the work and to create the piece; I needed to create my own social network.
So began lots of research and trying to find a cheap way of creating a social network as my mouthpiece. This is when SPHERE: Helping You to Tell The World Your Private Business came about. The word sphere is in relation to Jurgen Habermas’ work on the public and private spheres and my hypothesis that there is no longer a distinction between the two. That is unless we create a third realm where the two interlap called the Virtual Sphere.
I spent ages working on the logo, name, features etc… uploading the images I had created and creating fake posts that have the aim of saying something about social media and our relationship to it. It may not be kind and people may not agree with some of the statements but I think that is because we don’t really like to question why we use these networks or the information we give away. I have used a fake name too, this is to illustrate that we never really know who we are talking with, even if they seem like a virtual friend. We do not know anything about them or whether the life and photos they show to us even have an relation to them.
You can see the site here, it is an ongoing project and I hope you will want to contribute to the debate or think about what information we so freely give up.
Here is a combination of photos and screenshots from the project: