Creating a Designer Who Creates Designers
A Social Media Performance
This project was a 2-month social media retelling of Jorge Luis Borges' short story "The Circular Ruins." In order to fully investigate the nature of online narrative in 2017, I "became" the characters in the story. By the time the it had come to a close I had created:
I. ASKING A QUESTION:
- 8 Online Personas
- 10 Tumblr Accounts
- 2 Twitter Accounts
- 9 Email Addresses
- 1 Website
- 1 featured work on a typography blog
- 1 VPN
- 1 Google Account
- 1 Youtube Account
How do we read stories online?
With the rise of portable devices and social media, we read significantly more information than in the past. While they are now delivered in smaller fragments, the stories themselves have not necessarily become more simple.
In this environment, how are we receiving nuanced narratives that exceed 140 characters?
Observation and Investigation
I observed the language peers used when recounting different forms of stories they had knowledge of through the internet. These ranged from world news to events in acquaintances' lives.
They often received this information in the form of "real-time" snippets, through multiple platforms' feeds. Hearing new updates on news stories was often through newly-published articles, rather than amendments to old ones.
Many stories people recounted from others' lives were read when someone stumbled upon an old friends' social media profile, scrolled backwards, and fell down a "rabbit-hole" of related people and links in order to fill in the gaps.
The occurrence seeing a post being edited or deleted became a story in itself. A story could become a story not due to the content, but due to the falsehood of it.
What I noticed went against common ways we speak of digital content, existing outside of the laws of time—the language used to recount these receiving these stories shared common themes of:
III. THE EXPERIMENT:
Telling a Story
It became clear to me that the online narratives people engage in today consist of figures/personalities posting, deleting, and editing small fragments of information that our brain weaves into a comprehensive story. Therefore my story had to be told by the characters themselves, using social media platforms as any "real" person would.
My mentor suggested I transpose an already-existing story rather than creating one myself. In my search for a story that would address the nature of a character existing in the internet itself, I came across Jorge Luis Borges' "The Circular Ruins."
"The Circular Ruins" tells of a man who attempts dream another man into existence, until he realizes that he himself has been dreamt-up.
I transposed this story of address the nature of AI and graphic design personalities online.
It needed to be translated into personal snippets/updates that could conceivably take place over a period of time. These had to expand beyond simple statuses, but used the functions of social media (retweeting, deletion, post-editing) as an element of the narrative itself.
I created a detailed calendar to structure my story, as well as what I needed to prepare ahead of time to post on later dates.
IV. THE EXPERIENCE:
This performance took up nearly all of my free time for 2 months. Essentially I had created a character who was busy creating more characters, so there was a lot of keep track of.
Anyone could follow the occurrences of the story at any time. But due to its temporal nature, certain elements were only accessible at specific points in the timeline. Elements of the story took place across several blogs, which were up to the viewer to discover.
Luckily I had the opportunity to take an acting class where I learned a variety of approaches to getting in-character. This helped me improvise when-needed, and create realistic voices for the multiple identities. As the character(s) I created was a designer, certain design pieces emerged.
Sharing the Story of my Story
When tasked to present this piece, I was up for a challenge. My story is meant to be discovered by a casual browser, with the events one can follow folding out over time. Reading through 2 months of tweets and blog posts would mischaracterize my point entirely.
So I referenced my original research. What if this story were to be told from the perspective of someone who had followed the account the entire time?
For the sake of the presentation I created an additional character who existed outside of the story, who had happened to follow the events on these accounts. This new online personality decided to tell the internet the strange things she had witnessed through the form of a "storytime" video—a current popular genre on Youtube.
Though this process was initially aimed to focus on storytelling in the contemporary age, it actually led to a further understanding of identity and identity creation online. Playing the full-time role of several characters for 2 months gave me a new perspective—on not only how I present myself, but how to play the "role" of alternate characters to create work I wouldn't have otherwise.
Additionally, The project led me to develop an interest in the figure of the online avatar, which has expanded into a research paper examining its recent transformation.