Online Relationship Management 

Claire L. Evans and the Digital Heart

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CLAIRE L. EVANS will be bringing her performative lecture Restore from Backup, an examination of online relationships, to this year's TBA. Evans is a writer, artist, and musician (she's one half of YACHT) whose work often focuses on the role of technology in society. We've accompanied the interview with our own proposals for some virtual tools that would make online relationships a little easier to navigate.

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MERCURY: On your Twitter account you described yourself as "rampantly sentimental." Do you think you're more sentimental as a result of social media?

CLAIRE L. EVANS: I actually called myself "recklessly sentimental," which I think is a different thing. It's increasingly difficult to be impulsively sentimental or emotional on the web. When you lose a friend, or end a romantic relationship, you're not just "hiding" those individuals from your "timeline." Those are cataclysms of the heart.

Your presentation is "design fiction" that suggests some ideas for how to measure and understand our online relationships. Could you share some ideas that might not have made the final cut?

In its original draft, the presentation focused on the idea of forming a physical object from the vast amount of bits that make up a discarded online relationship. I had imagined the wealthy, lonely people of the future strolling through vast mausoleums of ex-friends, speculated about holding the sum total of a failed love in your hands. But I don't think we'll ever interface with data in such a tactile way. Now, the presentation focuses on emotional bandwidth solutions, which are more practical—and in a sense more dystopian—concepts for the quantification and management of the heart online.

You maintain a great blog, Space Canon (urbanhonking.com/spacecanon), all about science fiction. What trends would you like to see more of in contemporary sci-fi?

The future doesn't look as monolithic as it used to: in a world of subjective and endless connectivity, everyone will live their own versions of the future, individually marketed and tailored to their whims. I think science fiction has yet to adequately speak to this. Although there's a lot of great work being done, I don't think we've got our Orwell of Facebook yet.

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Claire L. Evans

Restore from Backup

PICA, Thurs Sept 13, 12:30 pm, free, pica.org

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