Heidi May
Since 2008
Works in Vancouver Canada

Heidi May is an interdisciplinary artist and educator whose work examines visual language systems of contemporary culture. She works in two-dimensional and multimedia forms, examining the personal relationships we have with media and the resulting effects on identity.

Heidi completed her MFA at the University of British Columbia and is currently pursuing a PhD, examining the relationship between networked art practices and contemporary art pedagogy. Heidi has exhibited artwork in Canada, published writing in leading art magazines and has presented papers in Canada, the United States, and Italy. She has been an instructor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver since 2002 and has also taught at Langara College, Simon Fraser University and UBC. Her experience with online curriculum at Emily Carr University of Art + Design has inspired her to research the philosophy of internet technologies through both visual and textual means.

website: http://www.heidimay.ca
blog: http://heidimay.wordpress.com/
postself: http://postself.wordpress.com
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Using, Using, Used

Thanks Mary....I did take a look....would be great if you could email me some info on your project (via my webpage listed in my profile).

As I wait patiently for my copy of Digital Folklore, I found the preface of the book (http://digital-folklore.org/) to be a helpful resource related to the above conversation between Ry and myself. Seems key to understanding where the authors of the book are coming from...



Using, Using, Used

Reflective Space: Feeding into Ourselves

I’m searching for interesting contemporary works/projects that use the internet (specifically social media) as a tool for generating information/knowledge about either its viewer/participant/user (individual or community), or perhaps challenge this notion. I am particularly interested in artists that are combining online technologies with self-reflective practices (either self-reflection of the artist or self-reflection of the viewer/participant/user). Also interested in non-digital works that explore these ideas.

Such works might relate to:
Eduardo Kac
Nell Tenhaaf
Perry Hoberman
Olia Lialina
Evan Roth
Rachel Perry Welty

Any ideas? Please share…


Using, Using, Used

This is fascinating stuff, Ry. I thought I had myself set up to be notified when replies were posted here...guess not. I still need to read through the "farmed" version of the text above for the full effect but needed to let you know that we're on the same wavelength and I like how our discussion has progressed.

Re: "The end-user is a concept in software engineering, referring to an abstraction of the group of persons who will ultimately operate a piece of software (i.e. the expected user or target-user)...
A couple of years ago I was involved with co-designing and co-teaching a "Human Factors" course in a communication design program. The idea was to have it split between an instructor with usability experience (designing products for Microsoft and other recognized companies) and an instructor with experience teaching visual perception and communication concepts, which would be me. The main project in the course was to develop a "product" considering the full "end-to-end" experience. Now, my background is purely fine art, however, at this point I had been teaching colour and visual communication concepts within a couple of graphic and electronic design programs at this school. When I signed on to develop this Human Factors course, I was just beginning a PhD in art education, reading all sorts of curriculum theory, getting into philosophical hermeneutics, etc. My fellow instructor didn't really understand why I would question the application of a User Centered Design (UCD) or question where she was pulling all of the terminology from. The idea of a course that tried to "round out" and perhaps "disrupt" a "user-centred" approach to design sounded interesting on paper, but it turned out I didn't have enough time to actually split the class and ended up only teaching a few sessions. I actually got excited about getting students to critically analyze the language used in product design (we spent half a class discussing what a "user" was and having them get more into the psychological and sensory experience of their users/participants/viewers/readers). My approach was perhaps more conceptually creative than what the program director originally had in mind (not sure).

Re: “In certain projects where the Actor of the System is another System or a Software then it is quite possible that you do not have an end user for your system. And the end users for the system, which is an actor for yours', would be indirect end users for you.”
Love this…It’s complexity theory and relational aesthetics, all combined into one.

Re: “Sometimes I think our base fear of the systems is what prevents us from truly understanding them.”
I think this is essentially what McLuhan was trying to say about our understanding of technology. He argued that we need to recognize that technology is in fact an extension of the human body, an extension of ourselves. In recent writings, Richard Cavell has applied this theory to digital communication, reiterating a significant point from McLuhan’s often undervalued theories - in any communication, it is the sender who is sent.

With my own work and writings, I am interested in how digital technology might prevent or enable us to better understand ourselves…but it seems the task is for us to first understand the reflection of ourselves within the technologies we use to communicate with one another. If you can know of creative works out there that address any of these ideas, I would love to know about them. I’m building an archive to refer to in my research and writing and am inviting people to email me or post to my blog http://heidimay.wordpress.com/.


Using, Using, Used

I really like where you are going with this...
I am also interested in the role language plays in how we perceive and understand the technologies we use and the relationships we have with them. Although I feel like I need to have read the Digital Folklore Reader to really comprehend the reviewer's interpretations (now tempted to spend the money on shipping from the UK!), the review along with your response provide much food for thought....

Perhaps by applying 'user' terminology to our experiences with the internet we are setting ourselves up to be 'used''? Does it also place more emphasis on physical vs. psychological acts of being? When we hear the word 'use' do we first think of the physical, concrete world over an imagined reality? Language can hold us back from meaningful understanding, thus meaningful creative responses to those understandings. Your example of ID as a substitute for user is quite interesting....Now that interacting with computers has become an ubiquitous act to everyday life, maybe we need to alter the language we use to describe these experiences. How might our understanding of these experiences and ourselves change if we were to call ourselves 'participants' and 'players' acting on or within rather than 'users' or 'subjects' of the digital world. Of course, this all relates to Bourriaud's discussion of "relational aesthetics," which actually goes back to Gadamer's hermeneutic inquiry into "play"....
In simpler terms, I am wondering if we need to incorporate some philosophical understanding into our study of these digital devices we use??

In response to your main question, No...being a computer 'user' is not unique when considered within a larger historical context. The problem is that the word 'user' limits our understanding of digital technology to that of the 'user' being 'used' as you have pointed out. Warren Sack, when writing about 'network aesthetics' in relation to art on the internet, wrote that the word 'network' immediately conjures up ideas of a computer so that peoples' minds can not move beyond the concrete technology to think about the abstract relations. I think it's the same thing with 'user'...we think of products, marketing and corporate control and the 'self' becomes multiplied into morphed into digital entities.

I guess after your post I'm left thinking...how can we expand on this language to be understood. I am also very much reminded of McLuhan's notions of technology not only being an extension of the human but being human. Now...we can't just change 'user' to 'being' so, until then, I guess we just need to make work that explores this conundrum...

I am also just playing in the realm of unedited commentary...:)