The Internet: Idiots Like Me Have Your Picture

In the second half of 2006, i collected pictures of Canberrans from their Myspace profiles. I cropped and enlarged over one hundred pictures, and printed several copies of each. I pasted the pictures on billboards all around the Canberra city area, accompanied by a link to this site.

You can view photos of the project around the city on the Photos page, and see the collection of user's pictures used in the project on the Users' Pics page. Also, head to the Talk/Press page and see what other people have had to say, in the media, blogs, and emails.

This website's main goal is to collect feedback, so please tell me your thoughts. But if you're going to send me an angry rant, I suggest spending the energy on making your home more water efficient, or planting a tree or something instead.

If you would like your picture taken down, email me with the page number, row and column where your picture appears in the collection. I will be happy to remove it. Please, I don't need a link to your myspace!!!

Background Information
MySpace is a social networking website offering an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music, and videos. MySpace also features an internal search engine and an internal e-mail system. Another feature is the ability to browse users' profiles by age, gender, location, etc. Myspace users' profiles typically contain their age, city, and a portrait style picture of themselves at a minimum. Users have the option to hide their profile from the public, but the vast majority do not. The generally impersonal and disconnected style of communication on the internet seems to foster a false sense of some kind of privacy. Somewhat paradoxically, Myspace users often display information that they may not be comfortable with strangers or even friends and family knowing about them.

Is there a message in all this?
A perceived sense of privacy in a public space, physical or virtual, is an interesting phenomenon. These people put their pictures onto their Myspace profiles, publicly accessable virtual billboards, and i put their pictures up on public billboards in real space. This certainly seems kind of confronting at first, but if you compare the potential audience size and the amount of personal information revealed for each medium, these users' Myspace profiles contain far greater potential for stalking, harrassment, fraud, and other misuse of their personal information (as i have shown through this project). Other titles that i could have used include 'potentially dangerous individuals like me know where you live, what you look like, where you go to school, who your friends are, etc', or similar.

With the popularity of the internet and the plasticity of digital media, copying/editing/distributing media has never been easier. Note that i am not including other information about each user, (such as their name, age, favourite band, a link to their profile page) but i easily could have.

Publicly available information and media is public domain, not necessarily in a legal sense, but in a practical sense.

If this project interests you, i recommend checking out these fantastic works:
We Feel Fine by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar
Grafik Dynamo by Kate Armstrong and Michael Tippett

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