Friday, November 13, 2009

(Social)Network Consequences

Re. J.B.C. Lecture, 11 November 2009

I found Jonah Brucker-Cohen's discussion of network consequences, specifically his realizations of the physical and the psychological connects/disconnects online, remarkable.

Spatiality on the Internet and virtual space have struck me as particularly interesting this past semester, and Brucker-Cohen really presented the stakes of entering this sphere in both "!Alerting Infrastructure" and through the ideas behind "CRANK THE WEB." The former saw the physical space the website represents being attacked and "hit" with every coinciding online "hit." The appropriation of the term "hit" (or even the re-re-appropriation of it, considering that the term hit originally belonged to the physical violence of hitting another object) was Brucker Cohens most obvious and (arguably thus) most ingenious point. He pointed physically and audibly to an online reality that occurs with great frequency. Such reappropriation places those other terms which are freely flown around the Interweb ( examples such as to "friend" someone or to "chat" with someone) at risk of becoming permanent; that is, at risk of losing their real-life, more grounded meaning in our world.

This shift from the real to the virtual is a unique problem. We both encourage and want it, dare i say need it (?) and fear it. The flow to the web (by which many people and companies, for example, are rendered obsolete) may very well as Brucker-Cohen suggests, lead to a physical deterioration of or obsolete self.

My question for Brucker-Cohen, or where I would have like to see his project lead to, would be to the realm of social networks, where much of Internet 'airtime' already resides. In "!Alerting Infrastructure" and "CRANK THE WEB", Brucker-Cohen brings humans into an equation in which they only half-knowingly insert themselves. When one searches for something on Google, for example, they "hit" a website without actively inserting themselves ino the equation (as in, they do not need to mention their name, give personal information etc. to use the service).

What my suggestion brings into the calculation is the act of knowingly making oneself vulnerable to that same 'hitting' that we saw occurring to the building. What do we risk by placing our "basic information," personal interests, credit card numbers and more onto these social networking sites. Do we really consider the consequences, and even if we do, are we able to conceive of the fact that one day the virtual will re-re-appropriate the physical (by which I mean, we currently transpose physical life into virtual life by placing it on the web, but what if the virtual was to re-adapt to some sort of physical mutation?).

Could the more frequently we use and engage with social network sites heighten the damage we are inflicting on ourselves? Even if the answer was yes, would people reduce their usage or would they be unable to slow their painful fervor of friending?

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