Reading Response A -- Conversation 2, "Reliability" (2017)

Nilas: I think there's also another level to it, and I think that’s what Laurel was talking about—context clues. If you’re very serious about the context of your work, you might be concerned when the internet picks and chooses which specific parts it likes of your work, and that’s what is dispersed and circulated through all these different circuits, and often the context is totally lacking because the description was lost. There’s not three images—there’s just that one that looked the coolest or was most interesting for some people.

Ayham: Ideally, the content—or context—is also part of that image. The way you describe it, which is typical, is that the image that is made public is only the image of the posters. In a way, the context of the work should always be trailing behind it. It should be attached to it in some way, conceptually at least.


Laurel: There are good things and bad things about that blog. We’ve talked among ourselves about it as perpetuating an image-heavy reputation of Yale. Also, if you are someone like Nilas—who’s not going to put an image of himself out there in the world—other people will. And when you Google “Nilas Andersen,” the second or third result will be the Yale Graphic Design Tumblr, which could be cool, depending on how you look at it. But is that the way you want to be defined? Personally, I’ve flip-flopped on this so much. But at the end of the day, I decided, “Well, no one so far is making a Wikipedia page for Laurel Schwulst, so I’m going to just put the image I want right now so I can steer my course. People can see where I’m going and work with that vision.” Dan: I was going to say the same thing. That you would think the best response in 2017 to these reputation issues on the internet is additive.

Ayham: Fight back.

Dan: Yeah, to put more compelling content online.

Laurel: I think Kanye West said something like, “I am going to call myself a creative genius because no one else is going to.”

Bryce: Reminds me of the artist Jeremy Bailey, who started calling himself a “famous new media artist” as an identity exploration.

Nate: I wonder, too, about being artists, designers, cultural producers, people who are putting things out into the world for other people to react to or look at... I was really enjoying the David Bennewith presentation. He does a lot of work that has some sort of historical reference—specifically mining or pulling from this history. Inevitably, when that work is disseminated, that history does not get shipped along with it. But it does gain new meaning, and it’s malleable in that way that it becomes richer for the willingness to put it out there without context.

Roland Barthes, author of “Death of the Author” would be pleased to hear that with the proliferation of digital media, the creator is removed from the creation. In this way, any media can stand on its own without background or history. However, this separation of media from its context presents issues with documentation. As Nilas pointed out context and the intentionality behind a specific piece of work can be easily lost “when the internet picks and chooses which specific parts it likes.” Within that vein, credibility becomes confused when the internet searcher cannot tell whether a work is presented with its original context or dropped into an entirely new one. Which is most clearly defined: a text on publicly-editable Wikipedia or the same exact text on someone’s blog? Or are both of these webpages pulling their content from elsewhere?

Laurel brought up an interesting point, though, that without proper context, one is free to say or express whatever one wants: “‘Well, no one so far is making a Wikipedia page for Laurel Schwulst, so I’m going to just put the image I want right now so I can steer my course.’” If the internet “picks and chooses” what you put online, your voice can be propagated as the voice of truth. Thus presentation becomes everything. You have to market your own content to the billions of users connected to the internet. Information presented through digital media has become like a commodity and whoever’s voice is heard the loudest or spread the furthest invisibly holds that content. Almost like a game.