Freedom of expression
As my focus continued to shift towards analysing different forms of content and consent, I began to scrutinise my own social media feed and the ways in which my friends utilised it as a form of expression. Facebook, in my eyes, has always been a powerful medium for expressing and sharing opinions amongst the world. It connects me to my friends halfway across the world, as well as those in the room next door. It allows me to remain as part of a network and enables me to communicate my opinions, either publicly or privately, to people in my social circles. Facebook's creator Mark Zuckerberg even asserts that the website's mission is to "connect the world," something I believe it does incredibly well. Yet, I noticed through closer inspection that Facebook had become less of a platform for conversation, but more one for sharing enjoyable content. Much like a TV or video games, Facebook was (and is) simply enjoyable because the content that it shares is engaging. The majority of it, however, does not push at the boundaries of expression; the content is created simply to be funny or confusing. Very rarely is Facebook used as a political tool (by my friends, anyway).
Over the course of two days, I screenshotted every post that I believed was utilising a person's freedom of expression, that is that it was commenting on something that, in certain countries, would be handled with caution due to censorship laws. These posts were often political and often came with an interesting or intriguing caption. I found over this period that a lot of my feed was filled with droll videos and planned selfies, and very little of it was dedicated to speech on politics. A number of outlets, such as Vice News, provided an exception to this rule. I found, however, that in most cases Facebook was simply a tool used to boost a person or groups' ego or to show what one person finds amusing. While I did not find this generally troubling, it did answer a number of questions.
One recurring question that concerned me was: why are people not engaged in politics? Why are some students just not interested in politics at all? The answer to this most likely lies in my social circle; the friends that I associate myself with may not be the type to advertise their political opinions on Facebook. Perhaps, this is a blessing. Yet, this ultimately creates a problem for the style of art I am trying to create. In order to engage in a conversation and debate, students need to be aware of the issues that are predominant for our generation. In this case, it is surveillance. Yet, despite this, I have never seen a single friend of mine post an update commenting on spying techniques or, indeed, the new surveillance bill that is currently being passed through parliament. Again, this might simply be down to the people I associate myself with, but it is slightly worrying. What this teaches me, however, is that perhaps my art would perhaps succeed more (i.e. create a stronger debate) amongst law students or politics students. Maybe they will have more to say about it?
This conclusion brings me to the crux of this piece. The piece was intended to look at the ways in which people within the UK use Facebook as a means of expression. Can a group of people who are spied on by their own government ever be free? Will the same liberties that are available now be available once the new draft bill is passed in April (should it succeed in doing so)? With the increase in surveillance powers bringing the inevitable rise of CNE (computer network exploitation) by GCHQ, will we be able to maintain our freedom of expression, and even if we can't, will it matter? Is Facebook actually used as a mode of expression or is it solely a platform for uploading your latest selfie in an attempt to rack up likes?
This piece is described as an experiment as it doesn't generally fit in with the definition of art. It, more so, fits under the category of research. Yet, to make this definition is to say that art has predisposed boundaries, something that contemporary society must move away from. My work can be defined as art because it addresses an important issue directly, creating awareness and allowing a conversation. The way my work is displayed also allows it to be defined as art.
The piece is also defined as experimentation as I did not consider it to be strong enough or developed enough to be submitted as a full piece of work. The project was originally intended to go on for longer than two days, but the amount of content littering my Facebook feed made it impossible for me to keep up to date.