Photos: Recognition [Non-Place Notoriety]
by Beauchamp Art
Photos of a computer screen displaying the Google search results page when one searches for ‘MySpace Tom’, in which the same, formerly iconic image of Tom Anderson, the founder of the social networking site MySpace, is displayed repeatedly. Unlike most names, or searches, the straightforward search term ‘MySpace Tom’ displays the same photo repeatedly, where as for most searches, especially when searching for images of individuals, various different photos may appear.
For these three images, I wanted to represent the narrative of the exponential expansion of fame through online media; hence the first image is intimately close, and then progressively retreats to reveal more images from the search results.
[However in the case of visual memes, sometimes variations on the same image may appear, usually due to the high frequency that an image may be referenced, whether intentionally or accidentally. For example, the ‘Scumbag Steve’ meme, depicting an individual standing in a doorway with a jaunty baseball cap, usually captioned with negative/pejorative text. Whereas unlike most memes which become rapidly and exponentially well known for a short time through self-perpetuating repetitive use on multiple websites, the ‘Scumbag Steve’ meme was deliberately made famous by the former partner of the depicted individual in order to slander him].
In this triptych I focused on MySpace Tom as e serves as a symbol for the half-life of online social media, representing how something or someone’s notoriety can rapidly increase through popular consumption, and be forgotten and disregarded in a very short time frame [Tom Anderson and MySpace has since been superseded by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook]. However the image of Anderson has remained somewhat iconic of that short era in social media history, as has the self portrait taken reflecting in a mirror with camera flash, and other such MySpace ‘selfie’ tropes, trends and clichés that have become saturated into pop culture, though their original source is often forgotten.
Nevertheless, the relationship between one’s online fame, in a placeless digital realm, and how that connects to one’s ‘real-life’ physical familiarity is curious, and different from the celebrity of the mass media, where popularisation is external, looking in, rather than internal, projecting outwards.
This contrast to online/offline persona and public image could be seen as a juxtaposition between the URL and IRL self [two initialisms that can signify each; URL being ‘Uniform Resource Locator’, referring to the online web address, and IRL being an abbreviation of ‘In Real Life’, an informal phrase popularised within cyber communities, such as chat rooms, forums, or online games [such as World of Warcraft] used when dealing with something in the real world, which is not exclusively limited to the offline realms, but also is used when needing to differentiate between a character and the actor playing them. There is a cognitive division between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds, personalities and people like that of fact and fiction, however with the URL/IRL contrast, both are arguably parts of the ‘factual’ world, in that they are not separate, but a parallel part of modern life. This can lead to unusual situations where there is a dissonance between the events of one sphere of life and the other; such as the potentially problematic labeling of two peoples ‘In a Relationship’ on Facebook before both persons are comfortable with the formality of informing others of their romantic engagement [hence the contemporary idioms like ”It’s not official until it’s on Facebook”, and not being considered a ‘real’ ‘friend’ until one is “Friends on Facebook”; and there are countless other examples the language surrounding peoples’ need to authenticate their physical, IRL, relationships through their online, URL, profile. I believe it is important to always question the value we, as a society and as individuals, place on the online representations of ourselves.