Notes for "Human Connections in a Digital World" talk

As Keaton, Lani, Jesa and I prepare for our artist talk at Artisan’s Asylum later this week, I thought I would leave some thoughts and notes here for reference.

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Women artists talking art + tech

Lani Asuncion, Christina Balch, & Keaton Fox

We’re organizing the talk around themes of human connections and how they are affected by technology and how we as artists communicate these themes using technology and why. I focus on the human connection with the self and self-perception. Keaton will talk about human connections to each other and communication/miscommunication, and Lani will discuss human to nature relationships.

I’ve been working in the marketing technology industry for over 10 years, and the concept of a “personal brand” - which really means one’s digital presence online - has become common place. I’m particularly interested in how people create different versions of themselves for various online personas to communicate their digital selves. People are expected to curate themselves online, on social media and on their own websites. We have avatars for our gaming sites, glowing selfies for Instagram, and professional headshots on LinkedIn. What is the process for curating yourself online? Sometimes it’s intentional, often not. How are these various digital selves distributed and archived online?

That’s where the data privacy issues come in. When these images are posted to social media sites for example, Facebook and other technology giants store them in perpetuity. Even if you delete your data from these sites, they exist on servers and often other websites online for a long time. Even more concerning, those images are cross-referenced with other personal data like your search history, email views and purchase history to tell advertisers (and possibly others) how likely you are to buy their product or service. I’m interested in this process because it’s an example of people curating their image online and trying to exert some control over their online presence, but simultaneously giving up control of their data and their self-documented images to big tech and advertisers who curate their own version of you that they want to sell their products to.

The ways we save and archive our digital files, particularly the thousands of images so many of us take on our smart phones, intrigues me as well. Many people have their “priceless” digital photos spread across multiple platforms, unorganized and unidentifiable. I’m interested in how people intentionally and unintentionally save their personal digital data, from photos to medical information to login passwords.

These are some topics that I’m thinking about for the upcoming Human Connections talk this Thursday. We may end up focusing on other topics though as there is a lot to unearth in the realm of connections between human, technology, and nature. Hope to see you at the talk!

Upcoming event info

Human Connections in a Digital World
Thursday, August 22, 2019, 7—9pm
Artisan’s Asylum
10 Tyler St, Somerville, MA
More info on Facebook event

Join local artists Lani Asuncion, Christina Balch, Keaton Fox and moderator Jesa Damora in a discussion about using art and technology to bring people together in today's digital world. Combining the messiness of technology with their bodies and experiences, these women artists explore and question the relationships between people, technology, and nature.

Research and reading list

  • Lots of good reading about hot data privacy issues in NYT’s The Privacy Project

  • Just started reading Judy Wajcman’s “Pressed for time: the acceleration of life in digital capitalism”

  • Abby Smith Rumsey’s “When we are no more: how digital memory is shaping our future”

  • For more, there’s certainly some crossover in my AVATARS reading list in the post after this one on my blog