No One Is An Island – We Hope

I’m an avid user of Twitter. It’s an amazing tool that has created multiple opportunities for me personally and professionally. I’ve made friends and developed invaluable contacts. But, the key word is that it’s a “tool”. When I’m out and about amongst real live people I prefer to talk to real live people. The phone (generally) stays in the pocket. Still, I’ve been known to pull it out say “I’ve got to tweet this” and on more than one occassion have looked around the room to see everyone else doing the same thing. We’re in danger of using technology to communicate to the point where we forget how to talk face to face, but we’re not there yet – we hope. Two Chicago artists are going to see what happens when you force people to communicate online – and anonymously – while sitting right next to each other.

On “Twitter Island,” 30 people will fill the Chicago Art Department gallery and be given Twitter accounts. Half of them will be seeded with questions, and the other half will just interact.

Co-organizer Laura Apple said “”What I’m most curious
about is the tension that will inevitably be created as people are
required to use Twitter to communicate with people who they could just
walk over and say hello to — how will this manifest in how the
participants act, and what they say? I’ve seen people texting at
crowded parties and social functions; why not talk to the people who
are already in the room?”

Seth Gershberg, the other organizer, articulated the reasoning behind the experiment. “If you don’t
know me, can’t see me, and can’t find me, I am free to say whatever I
want without fear of repercussion. The ‘true self’ emerges. But what
happens when identities remain anonymous, yet all communicators are in
the same physical space? Will it be boxing gloves or Victorian
etiquette? Will tribes or gangs form?”

The participants will be filmed and Gershberg and Apple will compare the reactions to what’s happening on their computer screens. “I think comparing the facial
expressions, physical movements and verbal blurts to the actual Twitter
texts will reveal something new,” said Gershberg.

I’m hopeful that the participants won’t be able to restrain themselves from communicating with the people next to them and that this doesn’t end up looking like a computer lab run by a dictatorial professor who will whip you with a power strip if you dare to speak.

To participate contact Lauri Apple at


Twitter Island, March 28, 1 to 3pm






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