[Untitled] by Jeremy Hight (Part 1 of ?)

Hight's announcement
Hight’s announcement

On Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 6:45 pm Jeremy Hight announced that he had begun a new series that would be “published” on his timeline and allowed to “float away down its river.” To think of the Facebook timeline as a river is a substantial change in the metaphor Facebook has implemented as an organizing principle for the mass of status updates, photos, and other material people share on this social network. A timeline can be explored with considerably less metaphorical effort than navigating upstream. There are no ancient philosophical pronouncements about never being able to step into the same timeline twice. To think of Facebook as a river is to highlight its endless flow and the irretrievable nature of a moment– correctly so– but that isn’t the only metaphor Hight is activating here. He refers to these posts as “publication,” a word that comes charged with centuries of print history and the circulation of the written word in ways that suggests a modicum of permanence, the slice of immortality beyond the ephemeral moment that Shakespeare wrote about.

The problem is that Facebook posts aren’t ephemeral. They are digital objects stored and backed up in Facebook servers with timestamps and a unique URL, which like Twitter posts, can be embedded into WordPress blogs (as of September 2013). So there is a way to circumvent Hight’s intention of having this narrative exist only on Facebook, and here it is, embedded into this post:

https://www.facebook.com/jeremy.hight.3/posts/10152064227364177

Hmm. Well played, Mr. Hight, well played.

Okay then, let this be a reminder that just because while the entry is published, it isn’t public. Upon closer inspection, I (who have the privilege to be his Facebook friend), noticed that the entries for this narrative are shared only with his friends, so even if you “follow” his entries, he needs to become “friends” with you to grant access to this narrative. Perhaps this is an oversight, since he does post public entries in his timeline (I tested this by following him with a different account). Or perhaps, like Emily Dickinson, who shared her poems with her friends and acquaintances by copying them by hand and mailing them in letters, Hight wishes to share this work with a select audience of people he knows and trusts enough to establish bilateral communication with in Facebook.

The preservationist in me wants to capture these entries and it would be easy to do so, by screen capturing the posts or by cutting and pasting their text into a new document, but as discussed in my series on William Gibson’s vanishing poem Agrippa,  I would only be capturing an aspect of the work by creating different computational objects. Besides, it begs the question: do I have the right to copy his work? Would this act be a violence against Hight’s intentions? I don’t wish to betray our friendship. I could provide links to the entries so fellow Facebook friends can access them, but it would be better to direct people to February 16, 2014 on his Timeline, which would provide a fuller context. Perhaps when it’s over, I’ll ask Hight to download his Facebook Archive and share the data with me, or archive it somehow.

Or perhaps I should enjoy it as it happens, share the experience with fellow friends, and appreciate it more for its “lability.”

You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned what the story is about. That will be the focus of the next entry in this series.

“A Look Back” by Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook Team

Screen Capture from "A Look Back" by Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook Team. A video player with a centered text in white with the Facebook Logo. Text: "A Look Back".
Open “A Look Back” by Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook Team

On Tuesday, February 4, 2013, Facebook released a generated video titled “A Look Back” to commemorate their 10th anniversary.

A Look Back is an experience that compiles your highlights since joining Facebook. Depending on how long you’ve been on Facebook and how much you’ve shared, you’ll see a movie, a collection of photos or a thank you card (link).

For those who have share plenty, this work assembles images and status updates from your Facebook feed and arranges them to be displayed on a video template that organizes them into several topics, to be described below. One could see this generated movie is a kind of Hallmark ecard from Facebook to you, designed to please you with pretty music and images you’re most likely to enjoy. And at that level, the work is a likeable bauble, as enjoyable and forgettable as a well chosen greeting card or something you’ve “liked” on Facebook. But part of its interest is in how effectively Facebook is able to use its metadata to mine its user’s database and generate a a surprisingly effective customized experience that could be considered an unexpected e-poem.

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“What Would I Say?” by Pawel, Vicky, Ugne, Daniel, Harvey, Edward, Alex, and Baxter

Sample output generated from my Facebook feed.
Sample output generated from my Facebook feed.

This app uses your Facebook feed as a data set to perform a Markov Chain analysis and generate new status updates from it. In other words, it uses your status updates as a lexicon to assemble a few sentences that echo your style, interests, concerns, and topics. Written in HTML and JavaScript, this little app was created during HackPrinceton 2013, a hackathon that attracted about 500 students this past weekend (November 8-10) to create “real-world projects.” The result is this uninvasive little bot that runs on the user’s browser (client-side scripting), connects to your account with an app via the Facebook API, and posts– with your permission– the status updates it generates. The beauty of this approach is that your privacy is protected because your Facebook data and authentication information aren’t stored anywhere but in your browser and Facebook account. You can also enter a friend’s Facebook username or a celebrity’s page name and it will also generate mock status updates. Here are some examples published in the site:

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“The River Dart” & “Babble Brook” by J.R. Carpenter

Screen capture from “The River Dart” & “Babble Brook” by J.R. Carpenter.  A twitter account with the picture of a river in the background and profile picture. Some of the postings read: “Hail on magnolia leaves. These and other improbably sounds.”, “All hail the cold rain”, “It can halt in the sun for longer than one might imagine”, “Sudden sun hail shower”.
Open “The River Dart” & “Babble Brook” by J.R. Carpenter

This poetic performance on Twitter is a series of observations focused on the Dart river and its environs in Devon, England. The earliest tweets on this account, which started on November 19, 2009, focused on the practicalities of walking along the river, and rapidly settled into a language based study of the river and its environs. The tweets exhibit a curious mixture of subjective and objective perceptions, writing from a very personal perspective without falling into Romanticism. It is more like Olson’s dictum that “ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION,” but captured and delivered over time via Twitter.

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“Debasheesh Parveen” and “Ariadna Alfil” by Eugenio Tisselli

debasheesh
Open “Debasheesh Parveen” and “Ariadna Alfil” by Eugenio Tisselli

These two “Facebots” (Facebook bots) were created in the last days of 2009 and quickly began to make friends, post images, and make cryptic status updates, commenting on each other’s updates. They started a relationship on January 13, 2010 and got married (that is, changed their relationship status to “married” on Facebook) on March 21, 2010. Ever since they have both been making status updates automatically every hour, (Ariadna every 2 hours) using the algorithm described below:

Debasheesh Parveen is one of the 99 Sacred Names of the Internet. It is also an algorithm:

1. Debasheesh Parveen takes a random news headline from the Al Jazeera feed.
2. The headline is distorted using a text-manipulation algorithm.
3. One of the words of the headline is chosen to search for an image on the Internet.
4. The headline and the image are posted to Debasheesh Parveen’s Facebook profile.

This happens automatically, at regular intervals.

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“@Postmeaning” by David Knoebel (part 2 of 2)

Open “@Postmeaning” by David Knoebel (part 2 of 2)

Note: This is the second in a series of 2 postings on “Postmeaning.” Here’s a link to the first entry.

…stmeaning” also via Twitter, starting on June 11, 2011, providing a snippet of the 100 word text and a link to the note or audio file in the Facebook page. An interesting detail about the Twitter via Facebook publication is that it cuts the 100-word posting down to a aize Twitter could manage, including making room for the shortened link and ellipsis. This creates a secondary cut, one that isn’t designed by Knoebel, which potentially creates a new textual iteration which could be interpreted differently from the original. Perhaps this accounts for the shift to shorter entries on July 21, which creates a direct concordance between the Facebook and Twitter texts, while at the same time allowing them to develop different audiences by eliminating the link to the Facebook Page.

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“@Postmeaning” by David Knoebel (part 1 of 2)

Open “Postmeaning” by David Knoebel (part 1 of 2)

ose poem is published serially through a Facebook page which gathers all of its postings in its timeline since it began on February 27, 2011. The writing is surreal at times, mixing topics and language in ways that are grammatical but obeying an almost dreamlike logic, like Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Since its launching, every single one of its daily (or almost-daily) postings begins an ends with an incomplete sentence and even word, evoking a sense that it is part of a larger thought or text, yet there is no grammatical connection between any entry and the ones before or after.

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