After a series of weekly tasks, this particular task serves as a more substantial project, the brief can be seen below:
The culmination of this module will be the production of a “post-photographic portrait” of Jill Jarman‘s piece for Cello performed by Laura Ritchie
Your decisions throughout this process should build upon and further develop the work we’ve begun in creative workshop and throughout the lecture series. This process should be evidenced explicitly and succinctly on your blog as well ( a 500 word reflective summary would do the trick).
To listen to Jill Jarman’s Cello piece click here
The piece itself takes the light from faraway stars and transforms it into a scripted musical piece for the cello. I listened to it to get some inspiration as to what I could do for this task as it could be incorporated in my own piece of work. The music was extremely abstract and sounded to me as an experiment into the sound a cello could make rather than a piece of music designed for the listener to hear and enjoy. I appreciated the experimental nature and it made me want to produce something that would draw attention from the viewer/listener and provoke a response either action or thought-based. Although it was well executed and it’s a really interesting idea I didn’t feel particularly drawn to the piece itself so I started drawing on the ideas from Phonar and tried to apply them to my own current interests.
I took the ‘Post Photographic Portrait’ title and started developing on this idea in relation to the tasks and content we have examined in Phonar. I originally started thinking about producing an image for a blind person made completely of sound as I enjoyed working with sound in the tasks. Then I started thinking of the concept of representation and how I could create an abstract form of representation, drawing on the ideas from Shahidul Alam of using different tools to achieve an outcome. I speculated as to whether I could produce a portrait through different mediums such as sound. The notions of a portrait are constantly changing whereas it used to be strictly a depiction of the individual with fixed elements such as the angle and crop it is now expanding. A portrait has become more about representation than depicting and this is what I wanted to explore in my Post Photographic Portrait.
With an idea in mind I needed to try and visualize the outcome, this meant picking who would be the person represented. I initially thought of producing a self-portrait through the notion of sound by making a soundscape; I would mostly include song, as I am known for singing quite a lot of the time. This idea was interesting to think about however it didn’t quite have the depth I wanted, for me this project was less about trying new techniques and more about creating an informed piece that would encompass the ideology of Phonar.
Eventually my attention was drawn to one of my current habits which is watching YouTube videos by the organisation Rooster Teeth. Their job is to play video games and record their footage to create a video which either informs the viewer how get achievements in campaign style games or give them ideas of what to do in open world type games. The content in particular that I watch comes from Achievement Hunter, which is a subsection of Rooster Teeth and mainly produces videos named ‘Let’s Play’. These videos feature the footage and recorded voices of the Acheivement Hunter community and without ever seeing them; I feel a sense of familiarity through their voices and their verbal interaction. I can identify who is talking and I know the dynamics between each of the employees purely though the audio content of the game.
This concept encouraged me to consider the other traces of the individuals online and whether this archive of inconsequential information could play a part in representation. I collated these ideas and brought them to an apt with Jonathan whereby we decided on the exact nature of the project. The proposal for my Post Photographic Portrait can be seen below:
I am going to challenge the notion of a portrait by attempting to reverse-engineer an image of some the Achievement Hunter individuals that I feel that I have become familiar with over the course of watching their YouTube videos. The concept of this notion is that the digital image is built up of two forms of data, visual data and metadata. This metadata of the image is the element I am interested in for the sake of creating this portrait. In terms of appearance I have not met these individuals therefore I can’t count on the visual element to form my impression, I need use the metadata. One element of the metadata is the voices from their videos; I feel a great deal of familiarity through these voices and by hearing them continuously I have built an impression and perception of these characters. The next step of this project is to explore and obtain the rest of the ‘metadata’ available to me in the form of their online presence, their location, their activity and their movements. My post photographic portraits will be in the form of data visualizations that will come together to form an abstract representation of each Achievement Hunter member.
With my proposal written I then started to think about gathering and collating the inconsequential information. It then became clear that in order to produce an effective piece of work in the remaining time period, I would have to focus my efforts on one individual rather than trying to tackle the group. I decided to choose the founder of the Rooster Teeth and Achievement Hunter company; Geoff Ramsey.
In addition to my proposal, Jonathan gave us the following questions to consider which would help us when tackling the brief:
What’s my problem?
What’s the solution?
What wouldn’t happen if this work wasn’t made?
I found these questions extremely hard to answer initially as I couldn’t think of my project in terms of a problem and a solution. Jonathan explained to us that unless the work we made would work to solve or expose an issue or concept then all we would be producing is ‘decorative work’. We were divided in the class and asked to explain our idea for the Post Photographic Portrait to each other, the listener would take the information given and apply it to the previous questions ready to present back to the group. The idea behind this act was that if your concept could be easily lost in translation from person to person, it would most likely be unachievable through the process of viewing as a final object. This process really helped to finalize my ideas and I was able to formulate my answers to the questions:
What’s my problem?
The problem I want to identify is the relationship between the inconsequential data left by a person online and representation.
What’s the solution?
The solution is to gather all the metadata of a single person from the inconsequential data they have left on the Internet and reverse-engineer a portrait – playing with the notion of a portrait
What wouldn’t happen if this work wasn’t made?
The viewer wouldn’t consider their own online presence and how much inconsequential data is available to the online community. Although the Internet is a great means for communication and is meant to be a positive tool, there can be consequences to leaving trails of fragmented data.
With foundations built in the right direction I began to gather information from each different online avenue. Initially I targeted sources that I am familiar with and that I use on a daily basis such as Facebook and Twitter, from these social media platforms I could find out Geoff’s location and a bit about his likes and interests. With Twitter especially I also discovered the members of Geoff’s family including his wife and daughter, as there are a lot of pictures and tweets about them. I then went on to find informational sources such as his designated Wikipedia page and his own profile page on the Rooster Teeth website. In addition to this I started paying close attention to the audio from the YouTube videos and exported the audio from the ones I felt best represented Geoff, these audio clips would be broken down and reconstructed to form a soundscape.
The initial archive of data can be seen below:
Geoff’s Facebook likes and groups
TempleOfApe MarthaMain ModestMouse Rhianna JayZ Visitors TowTheLine LazerTeam Goliath AchievementHunter SportsNation BurnNotic StatusKill RedVsBlue Deathtraps Battlefield PeopleKillRadio KathleenZueich CaitiWard WillbrooksWildAnimals AmericanAirlines A.JohnBolanger TheFORT GriffonRamsey PostNet Austin360 JoelHeyman NPR Xbox Zeilner Bros BarackObama Gnap!TheatreProject UnicornRampant BleepLabs ImagineThatProductions GearsOfWar Freddlew Dom’sRoosterTeethRelatedPhotos TentBaby RVBGloryDays TroublePuppetTheatreCompany
Geoff’s Twitter Hashtags
marriedtoanartist brohemian ItBegins Florence Italy HappyHour stronghands miamiheat2015 WorldCupBrazil2014 veronicamarsmovie embarrassed slowmoguys lovemylife ingoodcompany toocute SeriousBusiness kidsthesedays SXSW emasculated RollTide proudparent proudmoment officallyAmerican GuessTheChest HappyAnniversary luckiestdude jacksjobinjeopardy FatGuyFriday
Twitter Data Visualisations and Mapping
Also went to Twitonomy to get data analytics of Geoff’s Twitter Profile:
In addition to this I noticed that Geoff featured his unique Xbox ‘gamer tag’ on his Achievement Hunter profile page.
I decided to try and use this piece of information to try and find more about Geoff in relation to his gaming activity so I entered the phrase ‘gamer tag search’ into a search engine and it brought up the site featured below:
This was a surprise to find as it was an example of Xbox sharing the information of their users and allowing it to become public. Not only can you see the point score of the individual but you can also see if they are online and what games they are playing; there is also a history of game play and achievements within those games. Whilst the data doesn’t reveal the identity of the individual there is the apparent issue of data being used in a manner than was unexpected. I certainly didn’t know that as an Xbox user, my data would or could be extracted and displayed on a platform such as this. It raises the questions of the exact terms and conditions an individual agrees to when they sign up to a service that requires personal data, if they don’t read the contract they can be agreeing to anything. The key concept is control in relation to releasing data and whether you can trust that the organisation that receives your data. In the age of free information you must keep in mind that if you are not paying for a service online you are most likely to be the product being bought and sold by third parties.
Once I had collected some data I felt I should start use them to make suitable visual content, for example reason I took the Facebook likes and inputted them into the website ‘Wordle’. This tool allows the user to create a visual collaboration of words and have control over the layout, font and colour. My decision making process for creating this visual outcome can be seen below:
- Copied all the hashtags down on paper exactly how they were written then typed them up into the create box
- Colour: Black red and green because these are the colour scehemes for Rooster Teeth and Achievement Hunter
- League Gothic – strong but allows expression
- Layout: Mostly Horizontal
The finished Wordle piece looked like this:
With an archive of information collected I needed to think about a viable output and whether this would be suitable for the audience I wanted to target. As I wanted to engage with other Internet users it is obvious that my piece of work needs to be digital and easily findable on the Internet; I also want to attract the attention from younger viewers perhaps those interested in the gaming culture as they might be able to recognise where I have found the information therefore it will become more personal to them. The digital interactive tool ThingLink could be a possible tool, I created the sense of a journey with my Alientated Sensory Landscape however there was only a limited sense of control for me in getting the viewers to discover the information in a specific sequence. Although this wasn’t an essential aspect in the Alientated Sensory Landscape task, I wanted to keep the control with the Post Photographic Portrait and lead the viewer on a carefully constructed journey. For this reason I decided on the idea of a blog, as put together effectively, it can be easily navigable and allows a wide range of media to be incorporated such as embedded sound material, video and the ability to include hyperlinks to outside sources. I would be able to create a different page for each piece of content I wanted to display and construct the exact order in which it can be viewed. Although I usually try and make my academic blog as easily navigable as possible with menus and categories for the viewer to sift through, this blog would be an artefact in itself, with a definitive order in which each page can be seen. This journey of travelling through the pages creates the narrative in which the viewer will follow to find more about the person.
I did consider allowing the viewer have some control into exploring about the individual in question however I felt it was important to replicate this loss of control seen once we scatter information across the internet. The viewer would have the choice of entering into this journey however once immersed they would have no control over the information they saw and the order in which they would see it. The only option they would have would to exit the blog; I do not think that the viewer would need to see the whole of the experience to learn something from it therefore even if they did exit it would still raise some questions for them.
However there would be some element of choice in the exploration, one really important aspect for me was giving the viewer the capacity to see each source of information for each page and to learn about each tool used to extract and display different information. However I didn’t want to make it obvious, I wanted the viewer to discover the sources of information for themselves. Therefore I decided to put in links that were harder to find initially but when found would be easy to identify on each page these would redirect the user to another tab, pausing the journey and leaving it waiting for their return or alternatively the viewer could leave the tabs until the end to examine. This achievement of finding the information is also an attempt to keep the viewer engaged and interactive, rather than a bland pattern of just clicking ‘next’.
With an initial blog constructed I then brought it before Matt Johnston in an apt to see whether my idea was translating clearly. He liked the concept however though the viewer needed to be free to navigate through the different aspects by themselves, this greater amount of control would encourage the viewer to engage and interact with the website. The blog needed to be more fluid and I needed to replace the screenshots taken from other websites with data visualisations made from my own tools and with my own colours. We also identified that the Wordles created weren’t extremely effective as they weren’t actually visualising data, and as my research had informed me the viewer will be looking for a the information when presented with this sort of aesthetic. In addition to this he encouraged me to be creative with the personal information and to produce a CV with it as this biographical information wasn’t completely working. However Matt liked the colour scheme, the black, green and white does reference the visual idea of code and he felt the soundscape of Geoff’s voice worked well.
Following this feedback in mind I then started to rework my blog, changing the theme and structure to become more fluid. I also built on the screenshots taken from Twitonomy and made my own data visualisations using an Excel spreadsheet which allows the user to make and customise charts, the new version can be seen below:
With the updated version of my blog completed I needed to rearrange the content to fit the new theme: Spun. This theme features either a static page or displays the latest blog posts; each feature image from the blog post is put into a circle on the page. There was enough space to have ten blog posts without the need for further navigation so I designated the following subjects for each one:
- Introduction to the Post Photographic Project
- Biographical Information
- Twitter Data
- Twitter Mapping
- Soundscape / Voice Actor
- Xbox Gamer tag and gaming activity
- Source of information
This would also be the order in which they would be displayed on the front page, hopefully encouraging the viewer to read the introduction first and the sources last however the choice would still be theirs. I also needed to think carefully about what feature image to use and how it would fit in with the existing colour scheme. Each image selection had to relate to the content of the blog post and also have elements of green, black and white. Once selected I hate to manipulate some of the logos and images in Photoshop to get the colours right or to lay a slight black and white overlay which would make the colourful ones fit in better with the other choices.
With the structure decided I then needed to perfect the content, the following paragraphs detail a short summary of what is in each post, what I used to create it and my intentions and inspiration behind them.
Introduction to the Post Photographic Project
This was simply an extension from the existing content featured in the original blog; although I wanted viewers to draw their own conclusions from the work I felt it was necessary to provide an introduction into what the project was about. However the fluid nature of the updated blog would mean that the viewer could choose to read the blog post or they could miss it out and form their own view on what the project was about. This project for me was an experimentation into representation however it does have the underlying issue about the consequences of inconsequential; although Geoff Ramsey appears to be one of the individuals Fred Ritchin talked about being able to control his own image; other users of the Internet may not have the same knowledge of security.
I took the ideas from Matt Johnston and attempted to make a file that appeared like it was an official document detailing Geoff’s biographical information. I typed the information into word using the font ‘American Typewriter’ to make it resemble an official piece of text, after that I printed the document out and drew lines through the text that resembled the first part of the address but was in fact just the address of the Rooster Teeth Office. Geoff never discloses his home address online for obvious reasons therefore I wanted it to look like this part had been scrubbed out for security reasons. I then crumpled the page slightly to look like it had been tucked away in a filing cabinet and scanned it back into the computer to make an image file.
Following the research avenues given to me by Jonathan and Matt I wanted to reference and take inspiration from the work of Robbie Cooper and include a section on the different avatars that Geoff adopts in order to enter the gaming world. I searched through the YouTube footage from various games to find two defining shots: Geoff’s character viewed from the eyes of another player and the view from Geoff’s character himself. I then put these two together in Photoshop to make the final image, an example of which can be seen below:
As the project draws on the concepts of self representation I felt it was important to examine these alternate representations of Geoff’s self. It is interesting that in some cases the individual chooses to look completely different to how they resemble in real life, sometimes they choose appearances based on experiences and interests in their personal life, for example Geoff’s Minecraft avatar is a reference to the RedVsBlue character Grif for which he provided the voice.
The ability of websites such as Twittonomy and HootSuite to analyse and display a user’s activity is somewhat unnerving. It references the thorough investigations the secret service might conduct to find specific information on a person of interest. It highlights the fact that many third parties will pay to access the inconsequential information you share online and displayed in this format it can tell a completely stranger a lot about your personal habits. I usually flick through Twitter before bed and perhaps most of my activity happens at that point; although I am clearly happy for my followers to know this information I am not so comfortable about this information being there for any Internet user to examine. As referenced in the blog post earlier I had to change the appearance of the Twitter I had gathered, however I feel the new updated visual outcome is much more suited to the environment in which it had been placed and it resembles a piece of my own work rather than snatched data.
This identifies with the same concept as the Twitter Data; however websites such as BlueNod actually allow the investigator to examine the different connections the Twitter user makes; the terminology to describe this is Associate Mapping. It is a remarkable piece of software however I can’t help but thinking that people could find a lot about my location and my habits through other users that don’t have the same privacy settings as me. I chose to complete a screen recording because it wasn’t possible to embed the software in the space of the blog and if the viewer didn’t have a Twitter account, they wouldn’t be able to access this website for themselves and see the connections. I took advantage of the technology on offer and used it to my advantage, I didn’t want my blog to appear elitist by only including content that could be accessed by Internet users that are involved with social media platforms, this would also mean I remove my capability to access different audiences.
Soundscape / Voice Actor
Hearing Geoff and the other member of Achievement Hunter was the catalyst for this project as I really felt I knew them by hearing their friendship dynamic and their characteristics. This idea that someone could be represented through ‘data’ such as their voice and not just their physical appearance was a really interesting concept for me and draws on the idea of Phonar where as a photographer we need to consider the use of sound in digital projects. In some aspects, including different elements such as the written word, images, video and sound it would allow me to access the different kinds of learners. Some people engage more with sound and others with pictorial examples; by expanding across different mediums I have increased my capacity to access and engage with different audiences; a concept that Marcus Bleasdale and Aaron Huey have used to great effect.
Vine was a very new social media platform to me however it struck me as strange when I saw that a lot of Geoff’s Vines featured his wife and young daughter. Although this would be typical of a normal Vine user, Geoff Ramsey has a huge fan base on the Internet due to the popularity of those videos and sometimes Internet users take advantage of the anonymity of online spaces to exploit content such as this. There will be people that look at children on the Internet in a darker light and it was discomforting for me to see that their were lots of videos of a young child online with no security around them other than to disclose his exact location. Regardless of the physical security of his child, Geoff has actually exposed her to virtual exploitation. Perhaps this darker side of the project would encourage my audience to consider their virtual safety as Internet users in addition to their physical safety.
Geoff Ramsey actually served in the US Army as a photographer and his involvement in this social media platform really expresses that. There is a wealth of photographs that can actually inform the viewer a great deal about Geoff that he perhaps doesn’t disclose in other areas of digital space for example it is clear that he and his wife have cooking as a hobby as there are a lot of images of food preparation. However similar to that in the previous section, there are quite a lot of images of his daughter and although the location is secret there is still that potential for a user of the Internet to extract this image and claim ownership of the content to do what they would like with it.
Xbox Gamer tag and gaming activity
As I explained previous in my blog post, I was surprised to come across a range of websites that would enable the searcher to find out about the user of each individual GamerTag and find out their gaming activity. Although this information wouldn’t disclose any real important data such as the location of the Xbox or the real name of the individual, it was still unnerving to find that anyone could be tracking and following my progress as I played Xbox games. I tried to replicate this ‘live stream’ idea by finding a way to embed content associated with the games into my blog. I liked the idea of the Vine videos playing content on loop and wanted some way create a file with content of this nature. I then remembered a previous Phonar session where Jonathan explained that a previous Phonar student had used ‘GIFs’ to portray their content, this would be perfect for my needs. I used content from the YouTube videos to try and make GIFs of Geoff playing the game in question and paired it with the information featured on these GamerTag websites. GIFs are very popular across the Internet on platforms such as Reddit and Tumblr which are mostly used by a younger audience. It is the young audience using social media platforms that I am keen to engage with as some of them will have the most to learn about online security and actually would be the ones most at risk; especially with the lowering age in which a user can sign up for social media and the capability for the individual to lie about their age.
Source of information
I felt it was really important to reveal where the information for each different section came from as this would potentially highlight and/or expose platforms in which the viewers might have their own information displayed. I also wanted to show which tools were used to create information such as the Twitter Connections and the Twitter Analysis so that people could see where an Internet user could extract this information. It was also to explain that although I feel like I know this person and it is certainly easy to build an impression and representation on them online, I have actually never met them therefore I can’t consider myself as a friend of his. The term ‘friend’ in relation to online activity has a completely connotation to that of physical communication; for example I went through the process of removing people linked to me on my social media platforms that I would actually never speak to again and probably wouldn’t go out of my way to communicate with them if I saw them in person. The concept of representation and relationships on the Internet are two aspects closely interlinked and it is worth considered in relation to the inconsequential information that we share. Could an anonymous user trick you into thinking that they had met you and engaged with you purely from this inconsequential data, and in extension could a computer build up a realistic impression of you from the content shared online?
Finally with all the content sorted I then added in an extra menu at the top of the blog which categorised the different posts into the sections: Look, Watch, Read and Listen. This would enable the viewer to choose which medium they wanted to engage with if they didn’t want to interact with all of the content. This also referenced the structure of the website Matt Johnston showered me where the viewer could choose which content to engage with and create their own narrative of discovery.
The completed version of my blog can be seen by following the link below:
Considering the distribution for my finished piece was also an extremely important aspect of the project itself, practitioners such as Marcus Bleasdale and Fred Ritchin have identified that the photographer role has extended to become a publisher. In response I have made sure to examine the audience that I want to engage with this piece and consider the best methods available to me in order to distribute it. Twitter will be a useful tool in getting the final output seen by a range of digital users as I can tweet a link to it and add in different kinds of hash tags. It would be foolish to only use the Phonar hash tag, as Marcus Bleasdale said in his interview with Phonar I would be ‘preaching to the converted’. Many of the people involved in Phonar already know the issues involved with consequential data so this project might be of interest with them however it won’t be a real journey of revelation and discovery for them. However I won’t rule out using the Phonar hash tag because if individuals like my work they can circulate it to the right channels in which people could stand to learn from it. I want to spread it across social media platforms and hopefully let it be shared by those who find it interesting and engaging however even if they do not share it I would hope that they are considering the issues addressed.
An extension to this Post Photographic Project would be to reproduce the content in different forms, perhaps collaborating with professionals in different mediums to engage with a different demographic. For example I could see if I could create an installation piece where the viewer physically moves through a space of built up of virtual content. The interactive element would be transformed and projected into the format of an exhibition meaning that the viewer could choose to move through the space as they wish, replicating the fluidity of the blog structure. The use of different content such as sound, video and images would also work to create an immersive reality; it would actually be really interesting to see how this physical set up would work in order to create a feeling of familiarity with the character. As Fred Ritchin suggested, the greatest reward and effect comes from face-to-face communication and sharing the same physical space as another. This installation would fall partway between physically meeting the individual in question and my original blog piece as it takes these virtual elements but presents them physically.
This project has been extremely engaging and rewarding and has if anything provoked more issues that need to be examined in relation with my existing idea of representation. Above all I have discovered that the practise of photography has been expanded and the ‘photographer’ now encompasses a multitude of different approaches to producing photographic content. Digital technology has meant that sound and video can now be used to great effective either with or actually to actually replace the image. As Fred Ritchin explained, photography is now in ‘dialogue’ with video and the two techniques are so closely interlinked with the capacity to make a ‘photofilm’ or to take a ‘still’ from a moving image piece. The digital revolution has meant that most the content seen in today’s culture is viewed from a screen; and where there is a screen there is nearly always the capacity for sound. It is because of these key concepts and issues that provoked me to explore and produce content from each different outlet, although in this case the finished product is still in it’s very early stages open to much more development. I have found myself slightly limited in my own capabilities and the structure of commerce as I could have collaborated with a web designer or paid for a better template that would have perhaps pushed my blog past it’s existing parameters. This is definitely a key aspect to consider in the future as collaboration has been proven to produce some amazing results in the case of Marcus Bleasdale. I feel I have been able to research and examine the issues involved with this project and produce a suitable outcome for the intended audiences.