I like: ...toast buttered on both sides; ...busty blondes; ...it when my mom and dad go away for the weekend; ...learning Chinese; ...you all;...my best friend's girl; ...the butt sex. These were all real-time 'I likes' pulled from internet chatrooms. They flashed up on one of a couple of hundred mini-screens while being simultaneously read out by a computer-generated voice as myself and my sister stared in amazement. They started off slow, drawing us in and then sped up until it was impossible to keep track.
That was one of the 'scenes' of Listening Post, a special exhibition currently on show in The Science Museum in London. There are seven such scenes, with each akin to a movement in a symphony. But in artists Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin's seminal piece of work the world (wide web) is the orchestra - Listening Post displays uncensored fragments of text, sampled in real-time, from public internet chatrooms and bulletin boards. It is a 'dynamic portrait' of internet communication.
There is something hugely humbling about the exhibition, it offers a secret glimpse into other people's inane internet chatter, a snapshot of the enormity of online communication, and a sense of perspective on our own increasingly 'online' lives. This is the g-chat conversation you had with your cousin last week. That is the facebook message your schoolfriend will send you tomorrow. Or at least they could be. The digital screens and computer-generated voice are somehow incongruent with this humanness of content. That is in fact the whole point - in Listening Post we are supposed to experience the humanity behind the technology.
The artwork is world renowned as a masterpiece of electronic and contemporary art. Well-deserved renown, I say. So if sitting in a dark room surrounded by the modern 'music' and text of a wired-world, contemplating the sociology of forging connections and identities online is your bag (or if you just like robot-y things with Hawkins-esque voices and spying on other people), then come hither - I'll be the one standing really close trying to read everything.