So I’ve got this thing going on over at Facebook. I’m calling it “A Week of Worthless” and here’s what I say about it on the event page:
Have you ever stopped to think about what you are doing when you post ‘links’ to your Facebook profile? Implicit in the act of sharing a link is the idea that a link is worth following; that it is worth one’s time and attention.
‘A Week without Worth’ is an online art performance that will challenge attendees to re-examine and re-think the default relationship with the internet hyperlink as employed by social networks like Facebook. By presenting a series of Facebook links during the first week of May that are completely unworthy of a viewer’s time or attention the artist hopes to spark thought and debate about the impact of the immanent function of the Facebook link, and the internet link in general. It further aims to make attendees consider how deeply entrenched the culture and practice of filtering and ‘ranking’ has become.
By allowing and inviting comments on these ‘worthless’ links the performance will also problematise the notion of ‘internet worthless’ links by potentially demonstrating that discussion can be initiated and directed towards any ‘worthless’ site, thereby revoking its ‘worthless’ status and disrupting the performance. In actuality, the only successful ‘worthless’ links will be ones that attract no comments, likes, re-links, or other attention whatsoever.
While posting links, the artist will also reflect on the difficult process of finding and even conceptualising the ‘worthless’ internet page, despite the fact that we may (and often do) encounter a multitude of ‘worthless’ pages in a single web browsing session, all of which disappear from our mind and memory as soon as we click onto the next hyperlink.
You will need to possess a Facebook account to view the performance, however you should not (I think) actually have to add Ben as a friend. The links and their comments shall be set so as to be visible to any Facebook user.
As a last resort, RSS can be used to follow the performance, however RSS will not reveal the success or failure of the art project as comments and ‘likes’ will not be visible over RSS.
Until the 1st of May, any links Ben posts may safely be assumed are not part of the performance.
It’s only been up for about 24 hours and it’s already been a pretty amazing experience. I initally invited only people who I thought would probably “get it”, in the sense that they wouldn’t hate me for experimenting with something different on Facebook. The response has been pretty positive so far, but some unexpected things have happened. I made it an open event, so anyone could invite friends, relatives, or anyone potentially interested in attending a Facebook art-show, and because it was open someone else invited pretty much all their friends to the event. So there’s now 150 or so people, many of whom I have never met, all invited to this weird online performance I’m giving in about a week’s time.
Some people are actually declining to attend. Some of these people will probably just be declining any and every event sent to them – I’ve declined enough events in my time to get that many people just decline them out of habit – but there’s also been at least one person comment (jokingly? seriously? I can’t tell!) that they’re annoyed at being invited. Some people (probably a lot) are also saying they don’t really get it, which was unexpected for me. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have included the passage about “succeeding” as worthless links. I see now that it might seem as thought the actual linking was the important part of this event. It probably shows my predilection towards conceptual art; my cultural eltism; etcetera, etcetera. The event is really meant as a practical demonstration of an idea. In that sense, this feels a bit like game design. And as I’m being a creator, it also feels kinda scary, having to let go of what this event means and let people have their own ideas about it. It’s scary, but pleasurable, to be on the other side of the creator/audience divide to usual.
I’ll be writing some more about it postmortem, about what seemed to work, what I got out of it and some of the reactions people had to it.
Facebook is a weird thing… or perhaps more accurately, the internet is a weird thing. But I kinda love it too, y’know.