“Social Media without the Internet” is an interactive performance art project, created as an examination of the human sense of touch. The work is created to accompany the research project entitled “Digital Senses,” as a research innovation that examines how a new developing sense –digital sense—is applied to human sense of touch. Social Media without the Internet consists of two mediums: art object and performance. The art object is a tech wearable. Its functions are designed to be operated by hand gestures when people are socializing, i.e. handshaking, hi-fiving, shoulder-tapping, and handholding. The performance is a medium of investigation of the way social media’s interactions can be introduced into the real world. The project encourages people to socialize and invites them to have more intimate interactions with one another.
These two aspects, the wearable and the live performance, were created to invigorate and inform each other. The interactive part of the wearable functions as a collector to amass data from interactions with participants, while the performance works to make that interaction happen. The wearable is designed as a blazer, an informal suit jacket without matching pants, that looks casual enough to be worn with other street-style clothing. In the gallery setting, there is live video of the jacket wearer and participants interacting streaming on monitors, which represents the broadcast of interaction between users on social media. However, without the Internet, the live stream operates as a “local area network” only.
There are two principal topics that were parts of the development of Social Media without the Internet that merit in-depth discussion. The first is the result of digital interaction on social media platforms. These results are front-end data that present as numbers to users. Society has known these numbers since the arrival of social media, and by now they have affected everyday human life in many aspects. I call them “social media data”. The blazer allows 6 methods of interactions: add a friend, unfriend, give a like, dislike, follow the wearer, and following someone. With these interaction methods, the wearable can collect 4 types of data: likes, followings, followers, and friends.
Add friend => Shank hand
Unfriend => Press switch on the left chest
Add Like => Hi-five or click on emoticon icons on the front monitor
Dislike => Click on ” – ” on the front monitor
Follow => Press on the right shoulder pad
Following => Pull the string below the front monitor
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The second principal topic is humans’ common physical interaction among each other. Humans have different ways of interaction using body language based on individual personalities and cultures. However, because of some similarity of expressions, when we cannot communicate in a certain language functionally, this bodily language will be used as a primary communication method. For example, when traveling to a foreign country without fluency in its verbal language, we may notice that we use our hands more to describe something. Body language also involves a sense of touch, so this wearable is purposefully operated with four simple hand gestures: handshaking, hi-fiving, shoulder-tapping, and handholding. However, the actual interactions with viewers/participants are limitless.
Accordingly, the performer is the key to actual communication in the piece. The performer determines what the participants will experience using the sense of touch. Because touching is an intimacy interaction, it involves various conditions of distance, texture, position, gesture, age, and gender. The decision to touch something or someone may need more consideration than the decision to see or to hear, and the environment and location where the performance happens could also be conditions of the interaction’s length of time and of the type of audience. The art scene like, a gallery space, prepares people to be confronted with the unexpected, while people in public places may not expect to interact with such surprises and absurd actions. However, normal actions of interaction, like using a hand gesture for greeting, are what people in society are familiar with. Social Media without the Internet’s wearable uses four common hand gestures to operate the different pieces. This makes people worry less about whether they should touch the performer or not, since they are used to using these gestures in their daily lives. The only factors they have left in their mind to consider are relationship status, gender, and age. These three factors determine the position of touch and what gestures should be enacted, which are all based on culture perspective.
“Social Media without the Internet” is part of the research project “Digital Sense,” which currently experiments on two research innovations.
The project addresses a new additional human sense—the “digital sense” —in a contemporary world where digital technology is a new method of communication in daily life. Digital sense is an organism’s developed intelligent capacity that provides information to perceive contemporary data, which is sharpened by social media. With today’s technology, people have access to a new method of connectivity both to other humans and to machines, which has shown that there are still many perspectives on things that have never been seen or thought of before due to humans’ limitations of perception. The project proposes that when humans use the digital sense with any of their five traditional recognized senses (according to western philosophy, which classifies human’s basic senses into five categories), they can perceive contemporary data, especially Internet data, by absorption. For example, social media users may have a better understanding of contemporary methods of interaction, such as meme-creating and GIF-searching, hidden text-message meanings, and expressions or content of emoji combinations.
For brief information about another work, “Signal Moods,” please click here.