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The Human Archive Initiative by Adam Johnson

The project started off as an investigation into content and how to glean content from the web, with the intention of visualizing the content into a form that was based on some sort of algorithm. The idea came from Marshall McLuhan’s phrase that “the medium is the message”, in that the medium is the internet and what we generate online is our own personal message, through which the medium is made. I was interested in playing with this notion, if the message was not present on the surface but the data of that message still existed, how would that effect the medium. Would the visual content be independent from the meaning if the message was obfuscated, or would the fact that only an image that is based on data that exists online become the new message?

I then considered the implications of gathering data that might have been given up unwillingly, and the idea of privacy. After reading portions of Jamie Bartlett’s The Dark Net, and the article If You’re Not Paranoid You’re Crazy I started to think about identity and personal information on the Internet. I decided that a more egalitarian approach would be to ask the user to give up some section of information willingly. The visual component had been codified. The issue became how to use some slice of information gleaned from the user and how to change it and incorporate it into identification. I decided that if a user would be willing to fill out a form of their physical and location information, then they are allowing themselves to remove their anonymity.

I thought that if a user was willing to sacrifice some aspect of their data, then they should understand the implications of doing so. I’ve been interested in the recent discussion in politics of identifying certain individuals in the interest of national security, which is a fascist idea, and the anonymity of modern hate groups, both of which operate under a cold smile. I find that there is also a corporatizing in this willingness to sacrifice data, i.e. facebook and the dissemination of personal information. The way that I decided to amalgamate these different aspects of the project were to create a website that identifies the individual user using a form and location services, under the guise of a corporation with hidden sinister intentions. The corporation in the project has the intention of archiving humans, but to what end is never revealed. It made sense that the user would go through a bureaucratic process to generate the image, which they could end keeping as a representation of their identity. The user is willing to fill out a form and reveal sensitive information with the expectation of a reward, as many people do with social and searchable websites. I also incorporated sound with the image generation to further jar the user when the process was complete, especially since there is an inherent primitive violence to the drumming rhythm. I ideally want the user to come to the realization that past organizations have used a similar process to horrific ends, and we give up personal information that could identify us or implicate us into something we do not support, on a regular basis.