Ryan Trecartin’s latest big project is riverthe.net, an online website in which anonymous users can upload 10 second video clips and are asked to provide them with a maximum of three descriptive tags. The videos are then incorporated into the site’s larger stream of moving images, whose narrative “flow” is dictated solely by these tags. Trecartin collaborated with Tumblr founder David Karp on this project, which will be exhibited as part of the New Museum’s upcoming exhibition Free opening this Wednesday in New York. Trecartin debuted the project on Art Fag City earlier this month, and in conjunction with that Paddy Johnson conducted a lengthy and really fascinating interview with Trecartin about riverthe.net and his recent work in general. Go there for an in-depth take on the project and how it very well could change the (internet) world. (No, seriously, it could).
I feel compelled to note, however, that I’ve been trying to watch riverthe.net without much success over the past few days. For me, the experience can only be described as an exercise in frustration and seriously, seriously delayed gratification minus the gratification. The “flow” of this river is mega-choppy, I get maybe two seconds of video and 10-15 seconds of freeze-frame, and so on throughout the entire experience. From reading Trecartin’s interview with Johnson, I have to assume that a chopped-up subversion of narrative pleasure is not at all what Trecartin and Karp are going for. But that’s been my experience of the project so far, and though I am a numbskull when it comes to tech stuff I know I have a pretty good computer (latest type of iMac with the big screen, and our house has WiFi). So, you know, my setup, which I’m very lucky to have, is not good enough to view this project. Is it because the project itself needs fixin’ on the back end, or because I need even better equipment than that of the average user to view it the way it was intended? Um, if that’s the case – that’s not cool, for all the obvious reasons.
However, if we give the project the benefit of the doubt and assume that the choppiness is just par for the internet course, or better yet, something fixable that will soon be addressed, there’s a lot of interesting food for thought in what Karp and Trecartin are experimenting with here. I’m particularly interested in the idea of riverthe.net as a type of crowd-sourced movie that does away with interface and textual prompts in favor of ideas expressed “without using words,” as Trecartin explained during his conversation with Johnson. And it does so partly by doing away with curation altogether–anyone can upload video material, and that material doesn’t need to be voted up or down or “liked” or “favorited” or any of that type of crowd-sourced curation, in order to gain access or greater visibility within the overall stream. I like that.
Beyond these comments, I’m reserving judgment to see how riverthe.net takes off as greater numbers of people learn about it and start uploading more content to the site. I’m doing my little part by blogging about it here. Go check out the site for yourself and maybe upload something too–this is a project that definitely needs the contributions of the crowd in order to reach its true potential.
I’m an inveterate seeker-outer of new and interesting websites to add to my ever-growing RSS feed, which I in turn viciously cull with as much frequency as possible (I hate virtual clutter more than I do the real stuff). 50 Posts About Cyborgs is one of my new mainstays, and I dare say it’s required reading for anyone who is interested in Cyborg theory and other instances of human-machine dalliance. It’s a Tumblr site that was started as a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the coining of the term “cyborg.” Over a month, the site will update 50 times with links to material “celebrating 50 years of one of the 20th Century’s more enduring concepts,” the cyborg.
Here’s the scary part: I don’t have to worry about the site adding to my virtual clutter, because it’ll go dark once those 50 posts have been posted.
The project began on September 1st, so by my calculations there’s less than a week left to peruse the site before it vanishes into the ether. Thus far, 50 Posts About Cyborgs have posted essays on the origin and meaning of the term ‘cyborg;’ a review of the classic work of cyborg fiction, Genesis of the Daleks; a link to a Wired article about how disabled people are on the cutting edge of assistive technology; and links to more than one article arguing that the Bible is actually filled with cyborgs.
I’m not linking to any of the essays mentioned above on purpose, because I want you to click around 50 Posts About Cyborgs yourself. It’s such a great project — a fantastic use of the Tumblr interface — and overall an incredibly fascinating place to hang out for awhile. So click on over, please!