As a contribution to the online project beam me up, Marc Lee wrote software for the search engine Pic-me.com
, which combs the Internet for people's names and puts together new personal profiles from their associated details. Hybrid characters are created, who at first appear to exist close to this side of reality, and then seem to be pure constructs: crossbreeds of totally unfamiliar identities. Search engines for people in the digital beyond are invention machines, yet it is not easy to distinguish between the constructed figures there and us living people here.
software machine constructs new people-portraits, creations of an identity combined of the sum total of Internet data associated with a specific first and second name, country and city. Statistics show that giving one's own name in a search engine is one of the favorite search actions on the Internet. It's known as egogoogling
or ego search
. People often do it out of curiosity to discover their own Internet presence - in English it's called vanity surfing
. But it can also be a way to control one's own image on the Net, how one is presented to potential partners or employers.
It's impossible for search engines to produce a person's portrait precisely. No name is unique, and therefore there will always be an intermingling of data from several people with the same name. What results are distorted figures, blurred reflections, which can even be hurtful if we happen to be their subject. Because for some people, just a few schizoid traits are needed to bring on existential irritation. Simply seeing their name with the wrong portrait shot and wrong age brings on a feeling of queasiness. Pic-me.com therefore creates fictive figures, patchworks from names, faces and life stories from all kinds of cyberspace presence.
Marc Lee describes the political aspects of his work thus: my work should illustrate the importance that clarifying, and therefore political, functions of self-operating interactions on the Net have in an information society. Behind Pic-me
lies the belief that only through a systematic unfolding and the parasitic use of its astoundingly easily manipulable structures can the Internet be meaningfully criticized. It's Pic-me
's job to take a peek behind the pretty illusion of the desktop, to make visible the mysterious streams of information which delve deep into our lives.