Capturing Chicago: The New Face of Social Media

Capturing Chicago was my effort to capture the people Chicago and chronicle their lives. What really got me inspired was when I saw the movie “The secret life of Walter Mitty.” The movie was about exploration from one’s comfort zone and focused around the quote “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life” I wanted to do something that would allow people to connect on almost a personal level, but done in way that was accessible, such as by the use of social media.

What I did was every weekend or so, I would go out into the community and ask them simply -with a smile — if I could take their photo. Based off of that initial interaction, I would then begin to have a conversation with them. One of my favorite questions to ask was “what do you think is the meaning of life?” It’s a question that immediately challenges them to analyze their perceptions of the world. I would ask “what has been the biggest struggle in your life?” giving them the opportunity to reflect upon their past, but what it also did was lead to their triumphs. I would always get a counter story of how against all odds, they were able to find a way to overcome. Again, I wanted it to be as real as possible, I told none of them what to say. After I was done gathering a few stories I would go home and begin the process of transcribing from my recorder. I did my best to try to keep the diction and forms of speech of my interviewee, but also display their words in a way that was as clear as possible. I sometimes found this the most difficult part because often these conversations would range from a couple minutes to a half an hour. Part of my artistic challenge was deciding what I thought was the best and usually which reflected a part of me. But what was so inspirational to me was that people often connected more with things I didn’t like sometimes. I would post the whole conversation and people say “oh my God I can’t believe that they were talking about this.” I thought that this was one of coolest moments. It was interesting to find out that people actually liked different things and they interpreted things differently than what I did. After transcribing the interview, I would post to Facebook page about two photos a day, just enough to enjoy what was being said, but also leave room to save photos for another day. From there, I’d transfer it to tumbler and if I thought that one interview stood out from another I’d be able to make the photo really big to grab the people’s attention.

I wanted to be like the old bulletin boards of the past. I got a lot of my inspiration from the article “ The history of social networking” How these online meeting places were effectively independently-produced gathering spaces and allowed users to communicate with a central system where they could download files or games and post messages to other users. And the idea behind it was that there was always a hobbyist too. They were the ones tasked with putting together issues of the day and generating topics with which to speak on. That’s what I need to do and I felt that the history of the usage really connected with my work. Another interesting topic I learned was that often these gathering spaces were strictly local. Because most of the internet connection ran over telephone lines, chats remained tied to local communities. Usually only people of the community could participate which even went as far as creating local community meetings. This idea of a local participation is what I wanted to bring back to the city of Chicago I know there’s a whole bunch of different towns and cities but I wanted to create a space for dialogue that was local and encouraged real-life communication. In the gallery of my photos and how people reflect upon some of the messages that people are trying to share and just like the bulletin board system on these since it was local only affairs in and turned into in person gatherings.

I choose to use Facebook and Tumblr because wanted it to be social. Continuing with the history of BBS, the Internet finally became more centralized and popular in the 90’s. A result of this popularity was AOL. What was unique about AOL was that it was one of the first major brands to be solely committed to fostering member created content and communities. When Facebook started appearing, it is easy to see where much of their ideas came from but how they expanded upon it. And the difference I think was Facebook’s seemingly perfect integration of a social community and bulletin board system. And one reason why I chose Facebook and is a medium is simply because of its popularity. Additionally, I think that Facebook really bridges the gap between the old and young. Where you have older generations using Facebook to try to find people from the past and younger generations using it just to get general updates on trend. Furthermore, it’s still widely accepted as the primary go to. Another aspect that I like about Facebook is its ability to create ads. Not the silly the ones you see on the side but ones that allow you to check you SEO and target specific demographics. It allows you to increase the frequency your post will be shown will be shown and since most of my friends who follow the blog are in the Chicago area, it really served to generate interest in the community. I also wanted to use something that was more focused on the arts. Tumblr is a social network that is completely involved with people young people primarily who are looking for ways to engage in activity in local artists who I doing cool things. It allowed me to create a stable base to keep my photo on bulletin board format. Another thing that tumbler allowed me to do was post my photos however I wanted. I’m allowed to make some photos big and others small. I had more freedom for creativity and photo arrangement compare to using Facebook where it’s very linear.

Another article that I drew from was “Incantations for Muggles by Dana Boyd. What the article tried to do was understand what was going on with the web in everyday life. The most important part of her article was when she tried to figure out the demographics of who involved in social media. She identified five key factors of understanding what people are looking for in social media based on age. Identity formation and role-seeking (youth), Integration and coupling (20somethings), Societal contribution (adults), Reflection and storytelling (retirees)” (Boyd). Here you get a brief breakdown of what people are looking for and immediately you see a lot of different things that work with Capturing Chicago. You have the youth looking for identity and would read somebody’s post and want to feel connected. With young adults, societal contribution and the possibility to share and read other stories about what others their age are doing to contribute to the world. Having a resource that allowed them to see how others approach their life especially since a lot of these people are using it as their chance to tell their life’s story and trying to express what should be done and what shouldn’t be done — a chance to make sense of the world. So clearly you see a collection of why the young adults would want to be a part of this movement. For the young adults, the aspect of integration is key at this stage in life and looking to find something meaningful and in society. It’s usually when people are looking for careers and then trying to start a new chapter in the life and I think that my blog services them because they can see other people cope with the immense task of transitioning from no responsibility expected to work and being expected to be functioning members of society. I think that though not every story with have a specific positive message, they will at least begin the formation of the dialogue allow for people align themselves with what they found attractive, broadening their horizon. It gives them a chance to see different on the points on the worlds and then allows them to internalize their own identity. For Adults, an important factor in their stage is more about status. I think it’s a lot about image and how you present yourself in accomplishments in the world since passing from the previous stage. At this stage you find that you have are either living you dreams or not, and you really have to put things into perspective. You are trying to make what you do meaningful, and not only to society but yourself. What Capturing Chicago can do for this stage is provide a platform to showcase the work that they’ve done and how they’ve learned from each previous stage and implemented in their life. To kind of show off what they’ve been able to accomplish and their chance to leave a mark on this world. The older generation, in contrast, would use this opportunity for reflecting and storytelling. It’s a chance for them to really showcase all of the twists and turns of their life and show a general picture of what all the other stages are still trying to form. In some ways, Capturing Chicago is really a way to connect the older generation with the young. The ability to tell their stories in a way that’s presentable and attractive is a way to prove to the world that they are proud of what they have accomplished and have something worthwhile to share.

Another aspect of Capturing Chicago that I wanted pursue was the idea of transparency. For all of my photos there was no editing involved, no filters, no nothing. I really wanted it to be a representation of the person’s true self and an accompaniment to the words below. I wanted to overcome the idea of a non-personal social media prevalent in the cyber communities today. With the onset of the internet, not only did it obviously become easier to communicate with others, but it also allowed you to be anonymous. I was doing some reading about other social media and one of the articles was about how anonymous people are using Yik yak to deface other students. I saw that though it followed the same virtual community bulletin board, it did so in a way that didn’t make really allow you to connect with others, and even was used to harm others. I wanted to make a space where you feel vulnerable. It’s the only way I believe for someone to understand genuineness of a person’s situation and to really convey emotion in a way that people will listen. And even though people don’t know who you are they can see your face, your expression, and get a glimpse of understanding your intentions. This is in direct contrast with the idea of how social media is built up today. Sine social media has virtually chanced ever way we interact with the new people, it also has created new ways to avoid other people. Since you no longer do you have these face-to-face conversations, you have online communities where your real identity is never revealed, and in others, ways to interact with the site, that doesn’t actually have you be in connection with other people. and in some cases, without this knowledge it changes the meaning behind the words. We end up not actually interacting with other people, but just doing things with our own personal, one way visors, our own little lens. What I want with Capturing Chicago is the ability to scroll through and connect with the people in your community. To be able to talk with other people reflecting on the same image with their own perspectives. Even if a person doesn’t know you personally, they are able to comment and discuss. It encourages people to communicate.

This goes directly with the need to bring trust back to the internet. Another thing that’s happening is that people are using the internet to deceive. The internet completely changed how we perceive interactions between a sender and a receiver. For instant, deception on social media talks about the interaction between the sender and the receive being a game of “intensive scanning and adjustment to deception success on a social media service which encounter higher volumes of deception. In these communities like on Facebook, it leads to an atmosphere that is more suspicious and really decreases the ability to communicate in a way that is positive and effective. It creates a space where people don’t believe that what they read is real and they begin to trust less and less people involved in the community and I think this deception is debilitating. In a world where the majority of the interactions are not set via face to face interactions, imagine the damage of this digital interaction and then not even believe who you’re speaking to is telling the truth, or even who they are. With Capturing Chicago, I wanted to increase the trust between the sender and receiver. I think that CC serves as a sort of assurance manager. A beacon of hope that serves to reduce a sense of deception that some social media sites have. I wanted to increase the ace for receivers to believe that the content that they are getting is accurate. I think other sites like this are few and far between. The ability to connect a face with the text and see what emotion they were having at the moment the photo was taking really brings you in the heat of the moment. It gives you a feeling of a face to face interaction.

One of the most important aspects of Capturing Chicago its contribution to remix culture. When creating a look for the page, I tried to copy the wildly successful format of Humans of New York, a photo blog based in said city. In terms of content, I saw how meaningful the posts and the photos were to other people, but especially to me and it was something that I wanted to do and bring to Chicago. If this was under normal circumstances, and if I was ever to make money from it, the creators could make a claim of copyright infringement. With the vagueness of the current use of copyright, they could simply say I’m plagiarizing Humans of New York or even that I’m basically substituting in Chicago. But the beautiful thing about remix culture is that it allows you to take the bases from somewhere else and use it to you in a new setting in any way. And it’s not that my project is exactly the same as HONY, but it allows me to really expand upon other people’s work and feel like this ability to do so really does allow for the development of new goods and new ideas.

I spoke earlier about having a physical art show component one day, but one reason I also decided to use a Tumblr format is because it essentially becomes a virtual art gallery. It reminded me of just one more step in the process digitization, this generation has become accustomed to. The process of changing things from the once dominant physical format to the digital. It reminds us of the dialogue discussed in class about how we don’t just live around media, but in it. I think this is more than true, and even further that there is a push to make this transition. However, I think that as we continue to transition into this digital world it is important to realize that we are still based in the physical realm. How in the end these are still real people. Instantly I am reminded of one the interviews I had who was a student here at Loyola. One of the followers of the blog recognized my interviewee and almost immediately there stated a flurry of comments responding and discussing his story. Not only did they respond via comments, they even emailed him personally. So much though that he actually sent me an email of how loved he felt from the responses and an open letter of thankfulness that I then res-posted along with his photo. I think his post was so successfully because people were recognizing a vulnerability they weren’t familiar with on social media. They were able to connect on a deeply personal level to his story and even inspired to share their own, enough so to go out and physically contact him. It moved him so much that he came back to me and told me about it and it was kind of like this amazing moment where I realized that this is having a real effect. Originally nobody knew about those certain things in his life, but through his own trust in my ability to listen and the help of the internet, hundreds of people were able connect with this kid on a level that they had never done before and in turn create real change. When I had posted his story again with his updated message, I just I just felt at that moment that I had finally captured the idea of what I was trying to do. However much social media clams to be an interpersonal experience, I think the bulk of interactions taking place are one way and closed. I think Capturing Chicago can be a positive example of a method to break this barrier. It is a device to break the deception of a proposed connectedness and make it real. One that requires trust and openness among the community and an example of the eagerness locally that people have to respond to an issue.

One of the things I like most about my artifact is my approach with the photography. I wanted loose, kind of candid approach. It was important to me to never ask them to pose or certain way. I want to be able to allow them to express themselves freely, and by doing so effectively convey their emotion that had about their story. Often times I would take a quick snap while they were talking so I could get a true interpretation of the emotion. I never told them to do any of that, it was all really whatever came in the moment. It was an intent to capture the effect of talking to someone in person. A way to bridge the gap between a generation focused on screens vs. real face to face interaction.

I wanted CC to be a gathering place for the community. I wanted it to be a place for people of all ages to look at it and find meaning in their life. Whether it was for it was who they wanted to become or recognizing it as a chance to share where they’ve been At its heart, I wanted it to be something where people can go and really connect with other people, a gathering space for the community. To share their stories and generate a certain trust in humanity that I felt was lacking since the onset of social media. I was trying to prove that anonymity is inherently bad- you still don’t necessarily know the person behind each post- but I think the fact that you’re able to see their faces and able to get a glimpse into their world conveys certain physical emotions that you couldn’t feel via text. I think it serves a connection to real world communities, and restores a sort of oral story telling that is not seen any more. In some ways it’s definitely a connection to the past method of how messages are sent and received. In sense it a form of new aged old world style interactivity. If you see something you like you go to the page and you post a comment about what stood out to you and then you see this other person thought that it was important loop. You really get this loop that has the ability to go back to the person who created it, and I feel that in the end, it has the power to create real change in the community.
Capturing Chicago fosters a community dialogue that has the potential to great lasting change. It allows people to combine the physical world community with the online networked community just like those old bulletin boards did in the past. A space to post your own view on life, and be in a community of other people seeking understanding. I think in the end, it encourages people to go out and make their own sense of the world. The fact that I was able to do this and not be bogged down by copyright inherently fosters creativity, and I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s a sort of photo blog that tries to tell the story of a life and death struggle. It has love happiness and sadness. In some ways it is sort of a moving picture on the times of the community. I think one aspect especially is that it’s a time stamp to see how peoples thought and ideas progress over time. And I it’s this change I feel most interested in. I think as time goes on, it’s going to be one of the last things where people can get that king or real transfer of emotions through media. It might possibly be one of the last refuge for a sort of face-to-face communication with someone that you don’t know but can completely connect with.

Capturingchicago.org

Facebook.com/capturechicago

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