For those of you wondering (and there are fewer of you each day, Google tells me), I have not been blackmailed into silence by the Interacting with Print secret society. And the less said about my absence, the better (the interwebs are brimming with ‘Oh blog, how I neglected thee!’ posts.) Suffice it to say that: new job (loving it!) + warm-weather-induced-social-life-ressurection (ditto!) = blatant blog neglect.
So, moving on…
I Tought I Taw…
Today, I was delighted to Facebook-stalk upon a series of pictures from a guerilla project manned by a friend of mine and cohorts. It involved sprinkling a series of tweeting birds across their NYC Nolita neighborhood. But it really has to be seen to be appreciated:
From what I gather the endeavor was based in pure “why not?” whimsy, and to me it evokes a kind of tongue-in-cheek, absurd and literalist observation of the kind of amusing, disposable ephemera with which we clutter our digital world invading and occupying an actual little corner somewhere.
I’m struck by how many fun, cheeky, hard copy leave-behind operations occur in cities worldwide. Sometimes there’s a greater purpose like the DARPA Network Challenge (if by greater purpose you mean a nice cheque for finding 10.1% of Nena’s stash), sometimes it’s the brainchild of a roomful of marketers, but the most intriguing exist for their own sake and some even ride the meme wave all the way and develop a viral life of their own (Bacon, anyone?)
Barking Up the Right Tree
All the while I think there’s the underlying notion that for all we talk of a digital, virtual, soft copy world, ever-evolving with the release of each new i-product, we still love the real deal. On a rainy day (or after viewing The Story of Stuff) I may even argue that our rampant consumerism grows from an increasing, almost fetishistic desire to stamp out a brick & mortar impact in an increasingly abstract world.
The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Proliferation
Working in digital media, and living in an online world, it’s easy to get caught up in the virtual aspects of what we do and how we live. So easy, in fact, that it becomes refreshing and exhilerating to experience a work articulated in actual space. Particularly a work of social or political commentary, which have become the content mainstays of the blogo-twitter-insertnewfad-o-spheres.
When I think about efforts like the Tweetie birds, I often wonder what Walter Benjamin would think about the work of art in the digital age. In his 1935 essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, he describes how the aura of a piece withers in reproduction, divorcing mass-produced copies from the ritual, meaning and intent of the original, and becoming ideal vehicles for political ideology.
Keepin’ It Real
The world wide web being what it is, with each new Facebook/Twitter recruit or company determined to churn out post after post to play the SEO game, sometimes we have to realize that Content isn’t always King. Sometimes Content is Clutter. In fact, more often than not, it’s clutter. And the more of us generating it and splashing it around the series of tubes, the more meaningful NOT mediating your experience can be (so put your recording device down and actually watch the concert, why don’t you?)
So while I acknowledge I’d only know of the Tweetie birds because of dear mother internet (she pays my bills, gives me ideas and tucks me in at night), I wish I could have stumbled across them the old-fashioned way: a cute little day-brightening discovery in the midst of my standard routine.