Ethan Miller

Unless otherwise noted, all work licensed under : Creative Commons License

Netbody V2

May, 2008

"Privacy does not exist: whenever a line is drawn around a person, a statement, an art object, something alien falls within that border and something valuable falls out of it."

- subREAL, Politics of Cultural Heritage

Netbody approaches networked culture, and the question of identity within that context through data collection and visualization. It seeks to visually communicate the fluid networked structure that characterizes identity using actual data from online communities. Each of the nodes within the visualization is an entity of some kind: a user name, an image, a tag for archived data, etc. The lines show relationships among entities, and the project is coded to continually explore further connections.

Although identity has always been articulated within networks in the largest sense of the word (social networks, family networks, etc.), online networks provide a unique opportunity to capture data that results from that process. This quality of online networks, the nearly effortless capture, duplication and transmission of data is full of political, cultural and ethical consequences. The question of identity is central to the issues raised.

Within any online service the codes that manage identity operate off of a model for what an identity is. They each "draw a line" around the user. They capture biographical data, social network data, and attention data. Obviously none of these systems capture a complete, or event mostly accurate model of a given individual. This results logically from the highly fluid nature of identity. To that extent, it could be that the challenge moving forward in our networked culture is not to refine and perfect the models of identity, but to create systems that are more fluid and open like identity itself. The issues surrounding privacy, file sharing, and participatory culture would all become entirely different questions if identity were to be understood as fundamentally unstable and permeable.

Instead of drawing that line around an entity (person, image, database, etc.) Netbody assumes each node is simultaneously a unique identity of it's own, a small subset of a larger identity, and a common ground where many identities overlap. The Netbody code then spiders out exploring connections to each of these nodes. It renders the connections as a kind of inside-out identity, programmed to continue expanding outwards, following connections without ever settling on a well defined identity.


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