The Networked Era


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December 2018

A collaborative new media project designed to reveal research insights in a way concordant with the Networked Era. Each group member selected an elements from an individual research paper, providing us all with five objects of collective study. Relations between the topics were discussed in-person, and key insights from our respective research paths were merged in an online shared document. From this, we aimed to create an easily-shareable image that would reveal these insights to viewers using two-dimensional barcodes.

Creative Team:
Katherine Mednya
Angel Loi
Lex Moakler
Alex Slack

Here are the objects of study:

  • Humboldt Broncos victims fundraiser through GoFundMe
  • Online reaction to gender discrimination towards women in gaming
  • Obama 2012 Campaign tech team usage of ‘in house’ deployments of Ushahidi
  • Vaporwave, a digital music genre/aesthetic criticizing technology through nostalgic imagery
  • Arrived.US, an app used by immigrants to understand and assimilate into Canadian culture

The image is a world map, because that reveals the global scope and interconnectedness of the topics. The overall aesthetic design is intended to mimic Vaporwave, as we believe that would ensure the result would be ‘sticky’ in the sense of feminist researcher Sara Ahmed’s view on the shareability of high-affect content. We found that our topics were most visible in Northern America and the continent of Africa, and so the ‘human webs’ described by historians J. R. and William McNeill are here emphasized with Vaporwave-esque gridlines. Superimposed over the map are five two-dimensional barcodes.

These barcodes are called Quick Response (QR) codes, and are representative of the Networked Era. Each square code is a digitally-readable translation of a short blurb of text written by one of the groups’ members. These codes demonstrate the ‘recursive’ nature of media in the sense of Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan: here the medium of text is buried within the medium of an image. This text-in-image is pertinent to the Networked Era, as Big Data techniques are being used to monitor and censor large swathes of textual and audible data. An image such as this, with text encoded in the image itself, may evade such surveillance.

To read the blurbs, you must install a ‘QR Scanner’ application or similar on your smartphone. Then you need to scan the codes, one by one, using the ‘scan’ or ‘camera’ feature of your selected QR app. This translates and then displays the textual content on your device. Depending on the app you use, you may encounter advertisements throughout this process emphasizing the fragmented nature and hegemonic intrusions so characteristic of what futurist Alvin Toffler calls the ‘bedlam of blip culture’. This process of translating QR codes is required to form the ‘string’ of content from our group.

Once revealed, you will see that the encoded content consists of five brief blurbs. Each group member contributed a blurb based on their research, summarized and styled as if made for a post on social media. Visual design choices were continuously informed by an asynchronous group discussion, resulting in a product both aggregate and anonymous. What looks like a retro-futuristic digital analysis of the human world is in truth a composite of our human analyses of the digital world.