This project, which is still a work in progress, is an elaboration on a set of ideas I first started working with on my process blog, mp285.com It began with a data visualization by Ben Schmidt, which I stumbled across on my Facebook feed. The map, and the other images collected at the site from which it came, affected me deeply. I was unsure why, but there was something about all the motion, the movement:
A few weeks later I began working on “Black Haunts in the Anthropocene,” which was written as a stream of consciousness response to a review essay in The Boston Review, a piece by Mark Johnston entitled “Is Life a Ponzi Scheme?” Though they are ostensibly unconnected, the Johnston essay for some reason organized some of my feelings about the map image that I hadn’t quite been able to navigate beforehand. This sense of things coalescing was especially striking because I had come across both pieces while cruising my social media networks. My original posting was thus also informed by a feeling of things coming together with or without me, through clicks that, in retrospect, I cannot characterize as intentional or not. Just clicks.
If you spend on any time in a social media space, you likely know the feeling, that combination of enjoyment, distress, and anticipation, of finding what you weren’t looking for and looking all day for something that can’t be found. I am reminded here of a status update I recently came across on Facebook, which encapsulates the pleasure and the pain of the feed:
Before continuing with this site, I ask that you take a moment to click here and visit that previous post. It will open in a separate window, so that you can return here when you are done. It includes a link to the Johnston essay, which is useful to this discussion. It is also worthwhile to check out some of Ben Schmidt’s other visualizations.