New media art gives us the opportunity to explore further what networking can do for communities on a small and global scale. In most cases, digital networking allows users to interact with an inflated number of people than they would have interacted with in person. For some, this interface allows the user to gain confidence and encourage more self-disclosure. Yet, for others, it is an outlet for harsh language and hurtful comments.
One internet network that is extremely popular for social networking is Facebook. Facebook launched in 2004 and is now up to 845 million active users worldwide. Another popular networking site is LinkedIn, which was launched in 2003. LinkedIn has over 135 million users and focuses on professional profiles and endeavors. Since networking sites are extremely popular, and rising in popularity every year, is our morale going to become stronger or weaker? Taking this concept one step further, how can we can take the pitfalls of digital networking and create new media art that focuses or utilizes the positive aspects of networking?
It is important to take note of where networking really thrives as a positive, beneficial tool to both the user and the people who the user interacts with. This is hard to control since any negative or harmful aspects usually come directly from the user. Yet, there are sites/games/artworks that try to monitor a networking space to only encourage positive interaction. Yet, there are other sites and new media works that leave the monitoring up to the viewers/participants. One example of a new media work that relied on networking and monitoring was Wafaa Bilal’s Domestic Tension performed in 2007. Bilal lived in a gallery for 30 days and allowed people online to control a paintball gun and shoot at him at any time. By the end of the installation, over 60,000 people had shot at Bilal. Although there were many people who shot at Bilal, there were also people who would stay up and try to keep others from shooting by redirecting the gun away from Bilal. It seemed that people tried to help Bilal just because they knew it was the right thing to do.
I think that it is important to consider the use of self-monitoring with networking in relation to new media art. There seems to be an unspoken line that, when crossed, people instinctually recognize it, yet it can’t ever be put into something tangible. For example, if someone calls women bitches and sluts on a computer game, there is no legal repercussion because everyone is protected by freedom of speech. However, if this is brought to the public’s attention, that person who called women out of their name is judged and commonly ostracized. This is one place where networking and connectivity can really be a positive reinforcement in terms of self-monitoring. I think by focusing on allowing people to come to their own conclusions about people’s actions and voicing their opinion that we could really create some innovative works that force others to re-evaluate our societies morale and their role in maintaining high ethical values.