This is how I like to imagine a conversation with a systems analyst goes at a party:
“So what do you do?”
“I’m a systems analyst.”
“Oh… and what exactly does a … systems analyst do?”
“… I analyse systems.”
I’m at the very beginning of my research degree, which will hopefully be a 3.5 year magical mystery tour. Like any good magical mystery tour, I’m not completely sure where I am going or how many limbs I will have left when I get there. Yet even at the very beginning, I still feel compelled to have a reasonable answer for the inevitable question, “Oh… and what exactly are you… researching?”
So in this early post I’d like to write down some of the things that I’m interested in; what kind of work I want to make and what kind of new ideas I am trying to generate. This is the beginnings of an elevator pitch, though right now I think it will be better if we just take the stairs.
“Oh… and what exactly are you… researching?”
“I want to look at identity construction in online and offline settings. Specifically I am looking at the dynamics of how people form a sense of self in light of modern day computing trends, including ubiquitous social media, online subcultures and memes, virtual worlds and video game entertainment.
“Modern day computing has had a transformative effect on the way people talk, conduct business, form relationships, express themselves and find an audience of their peers. I want to make work that explores the ways people are using computer and networking technology (or how this technology is using them) to establish new forms of self-identity, how this process relates to historical and social trends of identity politics and community, and in a broader sense, how this technology may be creating a new understanding of the very nature of identity and how it is formed.
“My interest in this topic stems from my personal experiences, from my interest in computer roleplaying games from a young age, time spent in online virtual worlds like Second Life, friends I’ve made in cosplay and furry communities, and experiences dealing with my own sexuality. From my own understanding and the research of theorists in fields like anthropology, sociology, media and cultural studies, I have come to believe that the formation of identity is a performative process; a dynamic system of expression and feedback between the individual and an audience.
“If it is a performance, then what kinds of props and stages do computers provide? What kind of audiences are watching? And are there voices somewhere in the wings of the internet, whispering everyone’s lines; bodies made out of the ideas and dreams we are breathing into the network?
“I want to make art that takes these ideas and communicates them in new and unanticipated ways – a kind of qualitative research or fieldwork into these basic mechanisms of everyday life. For these truly are basic mechanisms. My research stems from the thought first formed when a human being spied his reflection in a body of water and wondered, with less pronouns but the same timeless confusion; “Who am I?”
“Well, I’m sorry to say, this is my floor. But let’s talk more sometime. You seem like a good listener.”