One of the challenges of the digital age is to learn how to stay present amidst the distractions, and to actually connect with people, face-to-face, when the convenience of technology-mediated communication has become ubiquitous. Even this problem seems a quaint memory of the virtuality of yesteryear, given the recent revelations of GamerGate harassment, Russian social media bots, the President’s late night Twitter rants; it often feels as if we’re spiraling out of control and leveling off before the ground consumes us can seem unlikely.
This app pulls the text in real-time from tweets that conform to “The Ratio,” a piece of pop-culture folk wisdom which hypothesizes that if any given tweet has twice the number of comments as it does likes and retweets, it is likely to be controversial and toxic. The app then slowly scrolls this text over the user’s front camera feed. Interspersed with this text, at random intervals, are quotes from Levinas’ essay, “Ethics as First Philosophy,” such as the one above.
I built this app to create an experience, a moment of reflection, wherein the user connects the negativity of these tweets to their own subjective experience as embodied in their own digitally captured image. The experience invites the user to consider their own social media communications (let’s be real—we’ve all thoughtlessly proliferated unnecessary comments into the black hole of the internet), to empathize with what it must be like to be the target of the tweet, and hopefully to ponder the ethics of digitally mediated communication.