Confession in the Age of Aggregation
Social media platforms have made confessional speech both ubiquitous and mundane. What, you might ask, is the value of a solo voice amid all this aggregated clamor? This coda begins by comparing several examples of new media art, all of which take others’ social media output as the raw material for art: Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar’s data-visualization site We Feel Fine (2005), Penelope Umbrico’s Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (2006–present), and Natalie Bookchin’s Testament (2009–present). All of these projects use social media to think through contemporary relations between the individual and the social or political. And so I end by considering what they might have to tell us about confessional politics as they’re practiced in the age of social media: e.g., Occupy Wall Street’s “We are the 99%” meme, the “mattress protests” against campus sexual assault started by Emma Sulkowicz of Columbia University, and a public forum held at Amherst College during the antiracist Uprising of 2015. All of these protests began as local acts, but then reached the world via the Internet. What happens when confessions like these travel through channels that have made confession so mundane?
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