hello world

“Social media and cell-phone cameras have created a zone of mutual mass-surveillance, which adds to the ubiquitous urban networks of control, such as CCTV, cell -phone GPS tracking and face-recognition software. On top of institutional surveillance, people are now also routinely surveilling each other by taking countless pictures and publishing them in almost real time. The social control associated with these practices of horizontal representation has become quite influential.”[1]

London may serve as the best example of how the Internet could be represented in the real world.

The web may appear as a multitude of networking cables across the city, aside of the imposing and continuous flux of still and moving images. The overlaps of multiple Emma Clarke’s recorded announcements[2] in the Tube may feel haunting as a speeded up daily journey of a teenage Tumblr user, facing with thousands of images per minute. The orderly chaos of a crossing in its peak time may resemble the clashes between the results of a generic Google search input, issued in a plain layout.

This frantic metropolis model have pushed artist to devise refuges for investigate human relations and their social context, as in case of the Relational Aesthetics theory founded by Nicholas Bourriaud, that coined the term in 1995. But Rikrit Tiravanija’s dinners may not have “strayed far from the model of 1960’s Happening”[3].

One of my main interest in London is related to the British colonialism of the XVII century, when the rule of Jamaica started. As a consequence of the two hundred years long British rule in Kingston, Jamaican people formed a big community in London around the 1950s and 1960s; that’s why South London was one of the first places where people was able to listen the first recordings by dub music pioneers as Lee Perry or King Tubby.

Dub is a term that define the practice of using recorded sound material by a sound engineer, creating multiple mastered “versions” of the same material (doubling). This process is one of the most influential conscious use of media postproduction, aimed to obtain multiple cultural objects from the same raw material, contributing in the birth of musical genres as post-punk, hip hop, house and techno among others.

Jumping back in time from the Relational Aesthetics, in the same decades when dub music was rising, a 15-years-old boy from Virginia, USA, was about to create one of the first network communities. Joe Engressia was a blind kid interested in telephones, gifted of absolute pitch, better known with his nickname “Joybubbles”. In 1957 he discovered that using a proper tone by whistling with his mouth he was able to open long distance phone calls without paying the AT&T fares. He became one of the first hackers in media communication as a pioneer of the Phone Phreaks community, a group of blind boys networked by open phone calls throughout the country.

Phone Phreaks were the ancestors of Internet based communities such as BBS networks, or in more recent times of imageboards like 4chan. In 4chan, “the computer layer and the culture layer influence each other” [4], and the social interaction of a network of participants linked together by common interests have originated the infamous Internet memes that daily infest the social networks’ dashboards. Similarly to “dub versioning”, memes consists in multiple evolutions of a media element, a work in progress that generates cultural objects.

Gazing long into the Internet abyss may show new interesting ways of social relations and cultural production.

[1] Hito Steyerl, The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/the-spam-of-the-earth/

[2] Emma Clarke is the official voice of the London Underground’s announcements since 1999. http://www.emmaclarke.com/fun/mind-the-gap

[3] Brad Troemel, What Relational Aesthetics Can Learn from 4chan. http://artfcity.com/2010/09/09/img-mgmt-what-relational-aesthetics-can-learn-from-4chan/

[4] Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, p 46, Leonardo, London 2002