PortalRevisited

PortalRevisited 2019 is a reworking of a previously unfinished installation work.

When I first began this work, I was considering whether mobile phones were indicative of an emerging cultural shift from a digital to a networked culture. Would our identities would develop as nodes in network whose relationship to other networks would become more important than our own uniqueness? Would computers be seen less as models of the mind and more as networked devices for human communication? Would we become tethered to the network? What was the nature of our machine/human relationships?

At this time, we engage in superficial forms of communication based on quick responses rather than thoughtfulness and authentic engagement. Conversational software serves as a substitute for the intimate connections that we once made with each other. Even the smallest suggestion of interest or empathy from an electronic device leads us to project human behaviors and choices onto a machine. Our devices make us feel that they are listening and caring in their interaction with us. But this is only a performance of empathy. Machines don’t really listen or care. Machines project the Illusion of companionship without the demands of a human relationship. As a result of these device-mediated relationships, we have become untethered from each other while simultaneously becoming tethered to our devices.

Over time, the coding for this installation was reworked and has been retitled PortalRevisited. In the iPhone application, my intention is to make the performance of communication by our devices visible. The phones are programmed to perform a series of specific behaviours that give them the appearance of attentiveness and awareness, while performing these communications in a clunky and disjointed manner.

The phones are also programmed to change how they relate to each other. They can behave as nodes in a multi-agent system, sometimes appearing to be partially interconnected, sometimes completely interconnected, and at other times entirely autonomous. When not activated by a viewer, each cell phone muses aloud, creating multiple streams of consciousness. When activated by a viewer, a single cell phone can perform a series of individual behaviors that makes it appear that the phone is conversing one on one with the viewer.

A small server program handles all of the video, audio and signal activity. The use of recorded audio and video, rotating motors, face recognition software video capture to evolve the content, and the phone's accelerometer for touch response all add to the illusion of responsiveness.