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Metaphors of Internet

Ways of Being in the Age of Ubiquity

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Edited By Annette N. Markham and Katrin Tiidenberg

What happens when the internet is absorbed into everyday life? How do we make sense of something that is invisible but still so central? A group of digital culture experts address these questions in Metaphors of Internet: Ways of Being in the Age of Ubiquity.

Twenty years ago, the internet was imagined as standing apart from humans. Metaphorically it was a frontier to explore, a virtual world to experiment in, an ultra-high-speed information superhighway. Many popular metaphors have fallen out of use, while new ones arise all the time. Today we speak of data lakes, clouds and AI. The essays and artwork in this book evoke the mundane, the visceral, and the transformative potential of the internet by exploring the currently dominant metaphors. Together they tell a story of kaleidoscopic diversity of how we experience the internet, offering a richly textured glimpse of how the internet has both disappeared and at the same time, has fundamentally transformed everyday social customs, work, and life, death, politics, and embodiment.

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Chapter Twenty: A Vigil for Some Bodies (xtine burrough)

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CHAPTER TWENTY

A Vigil for Some Bodies

xtine burrough

Each year since 2015, media artist xtine burrough hires Mechanical Turk workers to remember a lost loved one on All Hallow’s Eve. Workers are paid twenty-five cents (US), the same price offered in cathedrals around the world to light a candle in prayer or remembrance of loved ones. In her interventions on Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk virtual job platform, she transforms the tool into a place to be human. The following is a 9-image excerpt from an ongoing portfolio of artworks entitled, “A Vigil for Some Bodies” (burrough, 2016)..



Figure 20.1: Workers are hired to remember someone they love in burrough’s Human Intelligent Task (HIT) on Mturk.com. Source: xtine burrough



Figure 20.2: burrough hires one hundred workers each year, and collects their memories as part of her All Hallow’s Eve ritual. Hiring the workers to share a memory of a loved one gestures towards the workers’ humanity beyond the barrier of the virtual platform. Source: xtine burrough



Figure 20.3: Memories shared by the virtual workers are then transformed from digital data to objects of remembrance. burrough modifies LED candles, purchased on Amazon, to bring the workers’ memories to public spaces. Since the platform protects participant identities, she includes each worker’s alphanumeric handle. Source: xtine burrough.

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