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Digital Stories

An exploration into the ways we talk about the lives that we live on the web. This exploration spans multiple mediums, with both digital and physical results.

This was a solo project that I completed for my thesis at the Rhode Island School of Design. I designed, constructed, and installed all pieces of this project, which cumulated in an exhibition in 2017.

View Project Website


About the Project

How do we talk about our digital lives?

“Digital Stories” questions the concept of people having separate digital and physical lives. It is a critique of the notion that digital friendships mean less than physical ones.

My Personal Story

I grew up on the internet. From Neopets, to design forums, to IRC chatrooms—the internet has been a massive part of my life for as long as I remember. Now that I’ve started to reach the age where I’ll hopefully be self dependent, I’ve started to realize that my digital life and my physical life are so intertwined that I cannot separate the two.

This project contains a lot of different experiments that deal with form and interaction in different ways. All the pieces are very personal in nature and all deal with my own personal story of the internet.


Exhibition

All of the following pieces were created, curated, and then presented as part of an exhibition.

The Presentation

Each participant was given their own seat, desk space, and laptop. On the laptop, the presentation website was loaded. To present the work, I video called into the room and presented visuals by changing the images on the presentation website. I did not talk the entire time—instead, everything I said was spoken through the chat on the presentation website.

This unorthodox method of presenting served to create a shared experience that still felt isolated. While everyone was participating in the same experience and getting the same information, they still had to read it and access it at their own pace, using their own personal equipment. This was meant to be reminiscient of how it felt like to feel connected, yet disconnected, when interacting with people on the internet.


Digital Lives

Originally designed and written as part of a thesis project, Digital Lives is my personal history of life on the internet. It is both a reflection and an archive that seeks to explore the impact of the internet on someone who grew up on it.

PDF of Book

Contents

This book consists of four parts:

  • Feel: The stories that I want to tell about my digital identities and the digital life that I lived online. It is a reflection on how I think the internet has affected my life and how important it was to how I grew up.
  • Talk:An annotated selection of interviews with various people I know or knew online. We discuss things related to how we met, how they feel about the internet, and what they think about their own online identities.
  • Work:A selection of work from this project that discuss my digital identity and digital history.
  • Archive:An archive of digital ephemera, full of images of and from people that I have lost over the years. I reflect on who I remember them as, as well as where I think they are now.


A Love Letter to the Internet

A video performance about the internet. It takes the form of a spoken love letter, where I record myself talking about everything that I love about the people that I met online.

The video is combined with mass texts sent out to the audience. Throughout the video, and even after the video ends, audience members will receive text messages with images or messages pulled from my personal archive of digital ephemera.

The Video

The video describes my feelings in a way that’s more accessible to the audience—it’s in the form of a love letter. While many viewers may not be able to relate to my experience on the internet, many will have had a relationship with at least one person where they have felt similar sentiments.

Throughout the video, I bring up images, texts, and other content from my friends online. This serves to highlight or contrast the words that I am speaking at that time.

Text Message Interactions

Users are invited to text a number while viewing this piece and they will start to receive text messages with content pulled from my life online [this has been discontinued]. From lighthearted dick jokes to discussions of suicide, they will slowly gain more and more context to what I’m talking about in the video. This interaction does not stop, even after the video ends. Even well after the video ends, more content will continue to be sent to them until they choose to opt out. They will be left with their own archive of my digital ephemera.


Birthdays

A selection of digital ephemera—long forgotten files found on old harddrives, old email accounts, abandoned social media profiles—all related to my personal journey of exploring my identity online.

Viewer Takeaways

The files are stored on thumbdrives that viewers can take away with them after the exhibition is over.

Presenting the Piece

Users can explore the files in a physical format, but there is a selection of thumbdrives that they can take away with them—a physical form.


Chatlogs

A book that becomes a physical archive of IRC chat logs—a form of communication that is often considered to be ephemeral.

The Book

Typeset traditionally, the book is the first of many volumes that give chatlogs a physical form. Being physical makes it more tangible and more immutable.

Placement

The book was placed in public places, among books that dealt with topics of identity, biography, and community—all in places where digital archives are not often seen.


Digital Humanism

An open Google Drive folder, giving edit permissions to everyone and anyone. The folder is an open collaboration that invites people to add their thoughts on computing, in an attempt to try give dignity to the computer.


Colophon

Typefaces used are Caudex and Anaheim
Designed and coded by me, with extensive help from Stack Overflow


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