FOMOphobia

An Insistent Social Networking Anxiety Monitor

FOMOphobia is a network-connected installation that immerses the viewer in a visualization of the artist’s real-time social networking anxiety, sounding alarms and keeping count of unhandled content.

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Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a form of social anxiety described as “a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, or other satisfying event.” FOMO is the result of our bombardment by modern networking, more insidious because we take an active part in it, simultaneously stressed out about and perpetuating our own addiction.

FOMOphobia brings this private guilt to the surface with glaring numeric displays and alarm bells. It exposes the artist’s social networking burden and addiction, revealing both the accumulation and content of his social media messages. FOMOphobia provokes viewers to re-weigh the value of their relentless connectedness.

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Like social media itself, FOMOphobia simultaneously attracts and repels. The installation features individual monitors for each of the artist’s most insistent social media and chairs inviting the visitor to become immersed in the piece.  Each monitor consists of a prominent numeric LED counter of the number of unread or unhandled items, paired with a clangorous electric bell that sounds whenever the number increments. A single line LED display scrolls through messages as they are received exposing the content of the artist’s social networking.

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Installation and Debut

FOMOphobia debuted at University of California Santa Cruz Digital Art and New Media 2013 Fall Open Studios. It is currently on exhibit in the Digital Arts Research Center. FOMOphobia attempted to embody the social media burden of the artist. Incoming messages, notifications, and tweets are signalled with loudly ringing bells, flashing red numbers, and an alphanumeric LED display of the content.

At the DANM Open Studios there were five individual pieces representing Twitter, Facebook, email, sms/voicemail, and rss feeds (blog reader). Each piece consisted of a two-by-two foot wooden medallion of white mahogany inlaid into golden oak replicating in large-scale the familiar iPhone icons, a large red LED numeric display showing the number of unread messages inset into the upper right corner (also calling to mind the badge notifications on an iPhone), a red alphanumeric display along the bottom displaying incoming messages, and a red alarm bell hung above the piece.

As each message arrived, the corresponding piece would ring for several seconds, the number of unread messages would be updated, and the message, sms, email, or tweet would be displayed.

The skillful inlay combined with the light birch and red IKEA-style chairs of the installation made a curiously attractive and inviting exhibit, punctuated by jarringly disruptive moments as batches of messages arrived.

The installation proved to be surprisingly interactive as well. It was not unusual to find a crowd either waiting and watching for new messages or eyes-down to their smartphones texting, emailing, or tweeting the author in an attempt to see their messages appear. A few times, viewers let out a little squeal of surprise when a loud alarm bell went off. (From FOMOphobia: An Analysis.)

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Installation and Requirements

FOMOphobia is a wall-hung piece. Each of the five pieces is approximately 3 foot x 3 foot. The pieces could be hung above and below each other or linearly. In total, the work requires 15 to 24 feet of linear wall space. Maximally, the work can hold down up to a 30 foot wall.

Other requirements include:

  • Power: The work requires power above each of the five pieces.
  • Network: The work needs access to the internet, since it is a net-connected piece. The work uses wifi to talk to a private network via a nearby hidden router. This router needs to be plugged in to ethernet. Alternately, if only wifi is available, the pieces may be configured to use existing wifi.
  • Sound: The work involves five fire alarm bells that can be configured to ring or not ring. At full configuration, the piece can be rather loud (as intended).
  • Mounting: The heaviest part of each piece is hung by cable from a secure mount point in the wall. The alarm bells and the LED display are hung separately from screws or nails in the wall.
  • Lighting: Since the work features both wood inlay and LED readouts, the work benefits from subdued lighting on each piece.

 

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