Blueskying a Social Media Platform for the Arts

Hosted by
the Social Media Narratives Class
Art and Technology Studies
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Facebook and Google Groups
November 7 - 12, 2019

Adriene Jenik
Artist, Professor of Intermedia
in the School of Art, Arizona State University

image of Adriene Adriene Jenik is an artist and educator who resides in desert. Her computer and media art spans 3 decades, including pioneering work in interactive cinema and live telematic performance. Her mediated performance projects have been written about in The New York Times, published in The Drama Review, and recognized by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Jenik’s current creative research projects include "data humanization" performances, immersive learning experiments and street performances reading "climate futures" with her ECOtarot deck. At Arizona State University, she serves as Professor of Intermedia in the School of Art, affiliate faculty in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and a sustainability scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability. engagement and impact...

Since my earliest art activities (as a member of the Paper Tiger TV Collective in the 1980s), I have used media to critique and interrogate itself. Whether investigating the capitalist networks behind network TV, asking audience members using mobile devices to enjoy a story event to reconsider their customary relationship to them, or, more recently, using a drone camera to memorialize civilian deaths by drones - the media form, context and affordances are part of the “content” of the work.

Until the early 2000s I would have been considered an "early adopter" of various communication technologies, using coding in my artwork and developing live, globally situated telematic performances. I joined with other artists to see what was possible to communicate with these new tools - where was the edge? I was equally interested in the how and to whom we were communicating.

Some early performance experiments, grouped together as Desktop Theater, took advantage of the decentralized, low band-width and low/no cost but high visual/creative freedom of a platform called “the Palace.” Designed by artist and coder Jim Baumgarten, it was a lovely free space that invited expression of all kinds. It was very simple in alot of ways and got pushed aside by up and coming 3D spaces like Second Life. Since The Palace needed no special computing equipment and could be accessed through a dial-up modem, there were lots of different types of people from lots of places in the world who used it. For more than 4 years we (my main collaborator Lisa Brenneis and I, and our desktop theater troupe) experimented with creating online street theater and improvisation on the platform. It was crude, but allowed for tremendous iteration - we performed more than 50 unique performances during our run. These type of public online performance activities were also being developed by others.

The Palace fell victim to business interests, security concerns, and a series of next new things. One of these was Facebook which required real world account information assigned to each account (for security) and in my initial assessment, appeared to flatten relationships. As someone used to a large degree of freedom of expression, a hard fought sexual liberation and exuberant creative experimentation, I was turned off by the appropriation of the word “friend” and decided to duck under the wave and wait it out until another more robust option for socializing became available - at this time these applications were not so long-lasting. As a result, I never ended up creating a facebook account and to this day remain off the platform.

Decades ago, I joined with others to start "alternative media centers" where people from all walks of life could tell their stories and develop their voices. I also was involved in the development of the Indy Media model of independent grassroots publishing/citizen journalism. I continue to be excited by the potential of these networks. However, as someone involved in political activism, I am deeply concerned about the impacts of state surveillance and control enabled in these platforms. And as an educator for decades, I see the increased anxiety in my students, and feel it myself the more I utilize and engage using a computer interface. As well, I am deeply concerned about the seeming hegemony of capitalism and the way that we continue to march in the direction of a climate catastrophe, against the apparent will of the vast majority of global citizens.

So - at this point I write to you as an anachronism.

I live very humbly in the desert. In my current creative projects I work hard to make them as simple as I can. I am concerned with direct engagement and impact. I now imagine and foster the growth of "non-mediated centers" where people can go to find peace and sanctuary away from their devices.

I’m very interested in what others might suggest regarding a new social media platform and look forward to weighing in where I feel my experience and perspective can be of use.

Transcript of Adriene Jenik's Google Docs conversation
for the Issues in Social Media for the Arts 2019 panel

Judy Malloy:
Introduction to the Panel

Overviews, Ideas, Histories, and Observations

from: Artists/Educators

Adriene Jenik
Artist, Professor of Intermedia in the School of Art, Arizona State University

Tom Klinkowstein
President, Media A LLC, Professor, Hofstra University, Adj. Professor, Pratt Institute

Wendel A. White
Photographer, Distinguished Professor of Art, Stockton University

from Policy Makers and Advocates

Juana Guzman
National Arts Consultant and Arts Advocate

Dal Yong Jin
Professor, School of Communication at Simon Fraser University

Richard Lowenberg
Founding Director of the 1st-Mile Institute, and of NM Broadband for All

Marisa Parham
Professor of English, Amherst College, Director of the Immersive Reality Lab

Ellen Sandor
Founding Director of (art)n, chair of the Gene Siskel Film Center

from Artists/Designers

Deanne Achong
Artist and Designer

Tommer Peterson
Theatre Artist and Designer

from Curators and Critics

George Fifield
Founder and Director of Boston Cyberarts

Isobel Harbison
Art Critic and Lecturer in the Department of Art

SAIC ATS Class in Social Media Narrative
Vee Nyah Culton, Terrell Davis, Adriana Guillen Santalla, Samuel Han, Xavier Hughes, Yoon Joong Hwang, Olivia Paige Johnson, Mara Iskander Mirzan, Keun Mok Park, Richard Park, Wayne P. Tate, Ruby Hana Williams, and July Yoon

SAIC ATS Part-time Faculty: Judy Malloy