Sunday, March 24, 2013

Talking about Facebook to Facebook is Surreal

I spent the good part of the day before my talk at Facebook Headquarters updating my power point.   I usually change it a little bit before each lecture to tell a different story or two - but my challenge was to redo it so that I could talk about Facebook to Facebook in an interesting way. I edited, re-arranged fand tried to cater my focus to them.  As I was deleting and starting over I decided to just tell the story of the project, how I always tell it -  the most genuine, and hopefully the most engaging to them as well.

I was brought to Head Quarters by Drew Bennett, who is the Curator at  Facebook Analog Research Laboratory and runs the artist in residence program.  He is also a design / build / installation artist.  I was introduced to him by my friends at the Exploratorium and also by Kyle Durrie of Type Truck fame.  Drew and I both were recovering from the stomach flu, but that did not stop us from having some very interesting conversations about art in the corporate environment and how to engage employees with the work itself.   Facebook doesn't exactly have a corporate collection, but they do commission the artist in residents to do site specific pieces.   The campus itself has great graphics and the design sense is top notch from posters to signs.  All of the pieces I saw fit perfectly in the overall aesthetic, which I think is sometimes difficult in corporate collections.

It was also great to meet and talk to other employees after my talk. I was taken aback how smart + engaging everyone was (obviously this should not be surprising considering you can be a successful company of that scale with out a stellar team) but it was cool to hear their feedback and do some brief brainstorming on how we might collaborate in the future.    To make the day even more surreal, I was talking about the Pew study I cite,  and Loi Sessions Goulet piped up in the audience, and said she worked on it!  

Awesome hand drawn poster that Drew made for my talk
Poster compared to original image of Juli + Kanishka
There it is
I love that once I'm on campus, the GPS tells me to bear right on Hacker Way
Design building
I pad check in let's Drew know I'm here - it also lets me sign a disclosure form + prints my badge
The lobby of building 16 with awesome murals
Bridge view of jumbotron installation
Installation art in the courtyard?
One of the many cool posters that are all over campus by the analog research lab
Gorgeous cafeteria
Designed by Roman and Williams
Drew gets some rice
If I worked there, I would work from this cafeteria, it is just stunning
picnic table outside - guess it helps you find people?
More cool posters
Facebook shadow
Outdoor mural  by Brian Barneclo
BBQ joint
It's almost like the truck is an installation piece
Electronic art wall piece by Marc Slee
You don't have to leave work to get your hair cut!
Love these  Rich Jacobs pieces on the corner
Setting up for Mark's Friday afternoon Q & A
Reception area for another building with Rich Jacobs mural + analog research lab posters
I really wish I didn't have a stomach virus so I could of gone to the Nacho joint
The campus sits on this beautiful march

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What is Intellectual Property?

First things first.  I am happy to report after almost three months on the road, I have made it from L/A to LA.   I've been excited, terrified, exhausted and most importantly inspired.   Inspired by the landscape of this beautiful and diverse country, inspired by the thousands of students I have talked to, inspired by the conversations I've had with old friends, new friends and everyone / everything in between.  (I would much rather be exploring Los Angeles on this perfectly beautiful day than writing this blog post.)

About two weeks ago, I was drinking morning coffee in Las Vegas, about to leave for Salt Lake City and reading conflicting reviews on my twitter feed of Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In.  I got a google alert that I was mentioned in post a on Flickr about Ty Morin, who was doing a kickstarter campaign to  photograph all of his Facebook friends.   I clicked on the link and saw that a stranger had pointed him to my project.  I scanned it, was curious and headed on the road.  By the time I got to SLC, I got another google alert.  This time, I read that Mashable had covered his project.   I clicked on the link.  Writer Sam Laird promoted Ty's kickstarter + project and said:

"Morin's not the first to take on such a journey — artist Tanja Hollander is working through her friend list as well in something called The Facebook Portrait Project — but it's still a pretty cool idea."

What is "cool" about doing the same exact project as someone else?  What is "cool," Mr. Laird, about not giving credit to your colleague Zoe Fox who covered this on Mashable last year?   What is "cool" about intentionally (or not) stealing another person's IP?  If gender roles were reversed would it be "cool" for a 20-something woman to copy a 40-year-old male artist?  I have been contacted by only one reporter who sees this as "not cool."  Why is that?   Why is Ty Morin continuing to ignore my project?  Does he have no artistic integrity?  Is that "cool"?

A rush of unexpected feelings happened.  I was angry.  I was frustrated.  I was hurt.  I was appalled. I didn't care.  But actually I do care.   I care a lot.   I have devoted the last two years of my life to this work.  I have a 20-year career.  I have done a TEDx talk about this work, lectured all over the country about this work, and had two museum shows about this work.

I am often been asked by students if I am concerned about Facebook / Instagram terms of service as they relate to having my work on the internet.  It could be stolen.   I know, I have always said, but I think sharing work is more important than suing people.  In all of the discussions I've had, it has never occurred to me that someone would steal—knowingly or not—my idea.  In fact, I encourage students to go on similar journeys—I have learned so much (which I have extensively written about).

Intellectually, I know imitation is the highest form of flattery.  Intellectually,  I know there is no such thing as an original idea.  That is why I spent two months researching artists/photographers who travel, who photograph in homes, who use the internet, who use FACEBOOK.  I spent a week on the Library of Congress' website looking at the FSA photographers.  I talk about Robert Frank's book The Americans in every lecture I give.  I read Sherry Turkle's book Alone Together. I follow the Pew studies.  I contacted Arlyn Presser, who set off to visit all of her Facebook friends to cure her social anxiety.  I learned about photo 2.0 and museum 2.0, and contacted both Andy Adams and Nina Simon.   I learned about Nate Larson + Marni Shindelman's twitter project, and contacted them. I consulted with fellow artists, curators, historians and writers before I began.

All Mr. Morin had to do, was a simple google search of "facebook portrait project."  My website comes up first.  It may not be against the law to copy someone's exact concept and body of work, but it's wrong.  The art world is small, the photo world even smaller. My guess is, this is something Mr. Morin has not thought about.

What do I want to happen? This is the question I keep asking myself.  I want to know why the media and kickstarter continue to encourage this kind of behavior. I want Ty Morin to acknowledge that he is doing the exact same project as a colleague.  I want all of us to think about what IP means.   I want all of us to think about gender equality—specifically in the arts and tech world.   The Twee Q  gender study in particular is enlightening.  

I want everyone who reads this to re-post it.   Especially on every media site that covers his project.  I want everyone to stand up, shout out, lean in every time you see something like this happen.
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