Are you a Facebook (or Twitter or Tinder) zombie? Social media sites are handy for helping us stay in touch with friends, but in a recent article in The Atlantic, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams raised concerns that the internet is now dominated by a few companies that herd people into literally "Like"-minded masses, in contrast to the more freewheeling "open web" of the past. New technologies often have unintended consequences, and this expo by Lala Rascic is a rumination on that problematic legacy. In her Evil Earth System video, she telescopes time and space with remarks including, "Mountains are deposits of minerals and ores — iPhones subsume elements from 40 different mountain tops." Here the mountains are both rhetorical and physical as she recalls mankind's history of treating nature as a threat to be conquered with technology. But it is social media's effect on human nature that inspired her work with Slovenian programmer Marko Plahuta exploring 8.6 million tweets that featured prefixes like, "anti, pro, pre, post or contra" — words that suggest rhetorical peaks and valleys in our symbolic mental landscapes even as they reflect the algorithms employed by social media companies to determine what we see, feel and experience when we log on. Even words that seem chaotic in conversation appear neatly ordered when reduced to the algorithmic patterns strategically employed by leading social media sites.
This invocation of cybernetic speculation in relation to cultural and scientific history may not be easy to follow, but what it comes down to is perspective. Data algorithms can be represented as rays and circular forms suggested by multimedia pieces like Neosphere (pictured), where deft arrangements of lights, lenses and mirrors illustrate how appearances can change significantly depending on your point of view. Here luminous optical geometry suggests a sense of continuity with the 20th-century science fiction ideal of techno-utopias, where devices were our servants and houses were "machines for living." The question today is whether our seductive devices serve us, or we serve them.