We want to connect. We want to be connected. We reach out, through screens and networks, to be connected.
As is now well known in the hystories of technologies, computers and Network Cultures, once introduced into the system (reportedly in 1972), email immediately became a dominant form of traffic on the network. At that time, the network which was quickly overtaken by email was the then ARPANET. This network became the basis for the Internet as we know it today.
Human communications, from one to one and in communities (via group messages), quickly became accessible and extremely popular in this new technosocial forms (of email). Decades later, from the early 2000’s to the present, the rise of Social Media expresses the same powerful human needs and desires for connection that immediately dominated the data traffic of early networks. Now, we should all be familiar with and know how profoundly social media affects us, from filter bubbles to the affirmation-only (thumbs up) patterns of confirmation bias, feedback loops and algorithmic influences on political processes. These forces reinforce the facts that we are connection seeking creatures, navigating online technosocial spaces in pursuit of each other and ourselves, in conversational systems of technosocial exchange.
Erkki Huhtamo, a critical founder in the field of Media Archeologies, writes that our relationships to and with our screens, and the media which appears on and through those screens, constitute fundamentally important, ongoing and dynamic relationships. Huhtamo addresses the persistent imaginings we have of and/or the actual possibilities for reaching through screens and touching at a distance. In my Media Art Hystories and Genealogies classes, I teach his work in the context of these histories and how seductive or alluring media and materials work. In my research and writing, these discussions can and do crossover into some of what people would put into the contentiously constructed category of the “pornographic”. Hystories and theories of pornography are almost always depreciated and underrepresented, (for some obvious reasons). Still, “pornographic” media “works” online and through screens by confirming specific human needs for connections, especially those considered to be deep, intimate and private (although transmitted across heavily surveilled networks, public access points and privatized commercial platforms).
As artist shawné michaelain holloway clearly states: “We desire intimacy. We think about what camera angles produce it, which systems we use to enhance it, and how interactions can makes us feel the warm things for people on the other side of a screen.”
As Megan Farokhmanesh writes, Die With Me is software for mobile smartphone platforms that creates: “a fleeting sense of exclusivity and a reason to look forward to a low percentage. It’s a club you can only temporarily join, a secret room that vanishes when your time is up.” She highlights the fact that the developers understand and developed the app as art. Positioning Die With Me as art, as is the intent of the developers, places this app in the categories of Artware, Software Art or App Art, terms that were used more frequently in the early 2000’s to describe a type of code-based New Media Art for which there were active international communities.
Dries Depoorter clearly articulates that his Die With Me project is created to produce and respond to affective situations. The feelings produced by using Die With Me to connect and communicate with other folks as your phone battery goes dead differs of course, however, we can say that a certain sense of urgency (at least) permeates the conversations and ephemeral connections between people during Die With Me chat sessions. As Depoorter tweeted on February 3:
I got a phone call from Apple saying they want to make “Die With Me” app of the day in the App Store. They asked couple of questions but it’s still not sure. Funny they are now into the app. We worked 1 month just to get it approved! They really didn’t like the concept :)
Across various emotive valences and affective distances, we reach out to technosocially communicate and connect with one another. From ‘simulation’ to ‘sensation’ and email to the social platforms of various software systems, New Media Art specifically enables and/or creates opportunities for experiencing these human conditions. As the Contemporary Art of our technosocial times and the material experiences of our lives online, New Media Art presents and proposes connective communicative diagrams, interactions, moments and materials created by artists. Transmissions flow across layers in combinations of hardware and software, sent and received by us humans (as well as by nonhuman agents) in complex but coordinated overlapping protocols designed for these purposes. New Media Art happens here, in this context, where we connect, at the human edges of humans searching their networked experiences.