Despite the widespread use of social media—an invention that supposedly connects people around the world—many are struggling to relate to and learn from one another amid increasing political tensions. They are trapped in echo chambers, virtual spaces that prevent them from associating with others of different backgrounds or opinions. The most prominent websites collect large amounts of data from their users and use it to suggest content they prefer, a strategy meant to keep them engaged. However, it can also prevent them from meeting others who could be positive influences and from considering the most rational ideas. It encourages people to feel attached to their existing ideas and become hostile toward outside groups.
What’s News is a web-based artwork currently in progress that features short films and altered photography. Its dramatic lighting, and repetition convey the fear and isolation internet users often feel. Throughout the presentation, my subject keeps a flowerpot indoors. This item becomes one of confinement, initially trapping the subjects’ world within its walls. She refuses to water the seeds within it; her action represents missed opportunities for personal growth. The subject ventures outdoors, an unfamiliar place to her, but eventually sees parts of her home there, reminders that people can retain their identities while encountering new ideas. However, accepting them often takes time, which is why she crumples the newspaper out of frustration and walks back home to destroy it with the water from her faucets. She forgets that she had left the flowerpot on a porch ledge, and it too fills with water during a rainstorm.
When my subject looks outdoors for the last time, she realizes that a plant has finally sprouted from her flowerpot. In What’s News, water symbolizes the dual purpose of online discussion: it can silence opposing voices, but also help them flourish. We as media consumers will decide how to use it.
Tools used: Digital camera; Adobe Photoshop and AfterEffects; HTML and CSS