It's all too easy to tweak ourselves online. Changing to become closer to the way we wish others perceived us, only the most flattering pictures, falsely modest statuses and painstakingly crafted tweets make the cut. Although we may not mean to, we end up crafting a fictitious persona in the process. James Alliban and Keiichi Matsuda capture the bizarre translation from physical to digital self with their installation piece 'Cell.'
Using 4 Xbox Kinects, the work tracks viewers as they enter a room, projecting a cloud of descriptive identifiers on a virtual mirror that follows their movements. The descriptors were collected through the data mining of various social networking and online dating websites, projecting identifiers such as 'atheist', 'hipster' and 'meat-eater.' There are also other interests and states like 'ghostbusters', 'tattoo' and 'unnaturally high tolerance for alcohol.' The online tags form data clouds of fabricated personas which adhere to the viewers' movements and grow over time.
The artists are neither naive nor wholly skeptical about the changes the internet brings to our conceptions of ourselves. They are wary of the possibility that, according to Matsuda, "we may start to become shallow caricatures of ourselves, defined only by the content we link to." However, he expressed hope for the future, telling the Creators Project: "we need to accept that our digital selves are now a part of us, and find a way to make their positive effects outweigh the negative."
The piece was created using Microsoft hardware, including the official Kinect SDK (Software Development Kit). The project also involved contributions by Matchbox Mobile, who enabled auto user recognition. Alliban told Wired: "The 3D aspect of the Kinect was part of its appeal...The traditional 2D camera is a well-established tool for interactive art, but with Kinect you get the extra third dimension which allows access to the depth of objects and skeletal data of users."
'Cell' gives us the opportunity to quite literally see ourselves projected as a constructed pastiche of influences and effects. Matsuda puts it best: "We wanted to expose this digital aura, while questioning how this new way of defining ourselves may start to trap and enmesh us." Check out the piece and some behind the scenes explanations below.