It was required that the Memory artifact would only involve an obstruction if the author decided to use one. There was no formal obstruction decided upon, though in the process of creating the piece an obstruction formed itself. The artifact is about the author, though not quite about her; it includes the author, though not literally.
The piece is titled ‘Digital Identity’. It features a digital avatar and her monologue generated through inputting a text script into the Xtranormal.com platform.
The context of the piece is twofold – on one side, there is the pervasive technology and digital systems that are becoming a significant part of modern city life; on the other side is the author, who is living on the edge between the physical and digital world, and often not entirely sure which part is more significant and thus more real and which one is the representation / extension of the real.
The artifact deals with three main questions: ‘What is real?’, ‘What does a digital identity mean?’ and ‘What is death?’. A meta text can also be identified – ‘Who is speaking?’. The avatar has a voice that sounds digitally generated but is nevertheless created by humans; it is expressing the concerns of the author about the merger of her physical and digital life, with the monologue being moved to a digital environment. It is also suggesting a level of schizophrenia, of a disconnection between the physical body and the digital representation; it is a discourse only possible within a digital, synthetic, computer generated context. These questions can only be asked by an avatar, or by someone inhabiting a digital space; there is no appropriate way to pose those questions in a physical environment.
In a recent presentation that influenced this artifact, the performance artist Stelarc argued there can be a merger between the physical and digital world, a situation of ‘mixed realities’ with elements of either affecting the other one, including digital avatars taking a physical form and having a real-like life. Another part of his work is exploring the possibilities of a mind exceeding the limits of its physical body; the idea that ‘autonomous and intelligent avatars might want to access a surrogate body and perform with it within the real world’. He is exploring similar questions – What it means to be human, and what it means to be alive, from the perspective of the ever increasing use of technology to help extend our senses.
Another influence for creating the Memory artifact is the work of Botgirl Questi. This is a 100 % digital personality, which may or may not be the virtual representation of a real person. To use the concepts of film, we can say she is a fictional character that has close to real life encounters, including giving interviews, having legal arguments with Google about the identity of users of online services, and how one can prove it; publishing her own art and even writing books. In one of her less controversial posts for example, she tweeted ‘I’m asleep right now. This tweet was previously recorded’. The fact technology allows for a scheduled interaction is significant in itself – but she adds one more layer of meaning by having this tweet posted by a digital only character. She rightfully poses the question: ‘Where’s the new frontier?’
Burns, M. (2012) Stellarc: Extract Insert. [online] available from <https://vimeo.com/52877225> [29 November 2012]
Questi, B. (2012) Where’s the New Frontier?. [online] 18 May available from < http://www.botgirl.com/2012/05/wheres-new-frontier.html> [29 November 2012]