World Wide Web

“World Wide Web” is an art installation that was created for the September 2011 ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The installation was featured at the Fountain Street Church and was also shown at the Richmond Center for Visual Arts in December 2011 as part of a group exhibition at the Gwen Frostic School of Art’s Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery.

World Wide Web Artist Statement

This installation addresses the detrimental effects of communication technology and social media on our society and our humanity.  The title refers to our positive view of the Internet and, conversely, to the insidious side effects that come with it.

While the Information Age has brought incredible improvements to our lives, I feel a growing sense of peril.  We, as a society, seem barely aware of our increasing dependence on electronic communications and the Internet as it slowly permeates our lives.  With each year (month!) digital technology becomes more sophisticated and complex.  At the same time, we are entrusting more and more of our daily functioning to a system that, were it to fail, could bring everything to a screeching halt.   

Iconic houses are suspended in a tangle of giant spider webs made of electrical cords (USB, phone chargers, ear buds, computer cables, adapter cables, extension cords, etc.)  There is one house in each web to signify the physical detachment and aloneness inherent in social media.  Texting, instant messaging and status updates are devoid of the nuance and deeper meaning that comes with body language, facial expression and vocal intonation.  As we communicate using electronic technologies, we are physically disconnected, leaving us to assume meanings that are easily distorted by our own moods and quirks of personality.  Regardless of our understanding of the messages we receive, we are virtually separated from the rest of the world, as if we were suspended in space, receiving no warmth, no intimacy – only filtered, plastic wrapped human interaction.

Blue light emanates from the houses like the blue glow created by TVs, monitors and computer displays.  The blue glow symbolizes the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) that happens when a computer “dies”.  It is also a reference to the following excerpt from the novel “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac:

“…if you take a walk some night…and pass house after house on both sides of the street each with the lamplight of the living room, shining golden, and inside the little blue square of the television, each family riveting its attention…nobody talking: silence in the yards; dogs barking because you pass on human feet…passing the blue television windows of homes, alone, [your] thoughts the only thoughts not electrified to the Master Switch.”

More than fifty years ago, Mr. Kerouac warned us about the isolating effects of communication technology on our culture and our society.  The next time you are having dinner in a restaurant or sitting in a public place, take a look around the room.  You may notice that some people are inclined to sit quietly and stare at their phones as they communicate with their fellow texters, oblivious to all that is going on around them..¬¬.

World Wide Web and Civil Liberties

The advent of the Internet and social networking has brought about some wonderful improvements as well as some huge challenges to our modern lives.  

It has never been so easy to do your banking, but it has also never been so easy to have your identity stolen and your credit rating ruined all in one day.

It has never been so easy to find a doctor in your area, but it has also never been so easy for a potential (unscrupulous) employer to find out your entire medical history all in one hour.

It has never been so easy (or cheap) to advertise your business to thousands of people, but it has also never been so easy for one unhappy customer to ruin your professional reputation all in one minute.

It has never been so easy to pay all your bills and file your tax return, but it has also never been so easy for the IRS to freeze all your assets and drain your bank accounts all in one second.

Processes that used to take days and weeks can now be accomplished with lightning speed thanks to the Internet.  While this is a tremendous convenience for most people, it still costs money to own and maintain a computer and to have an Internet connection.  Living without the Internet at home can be compared to walking on the side of the highway while traffic speeds by at eighty miles an hour.  If you aren’t hooked up, you aren’t going anywhere.