I previously wrote on the idea of my life as a character, i.e. what if I had an author hovering above me, narrating my every thought, sensation, memory, or basically any quality not visibly or audibly expressed. I think of the novel as a technology for reconfiguring the presentation of the individual, and as such, the novel enables me to conceive of additional categories for understanding my life.

Computer technology takes this reconfiguration of life to a new plateau. In our experience of other people on the Internet, we almost always have access to all sorts of vital stats for other people–we can see a name, a photo (or many, representing multiple times and situations), birth date, location, interests, habits, videos, blogs, etc. In other words, I’m provided with a predictable frame for beginning to know someone, without ever having to enter their physical space, or even introduce myself.

Aaahhh, so I think, what if, out on the street, someone could do the equivalent of hovering their mouse over my image to access all this information about me, before even waving at me? More practically, what if I simply had a chip embedded under my skin and as others pass me, they could scan me with their palm-sized computer and retrieve any number of stats–am I single? what’s my occupation? how old am I? where am I from, where do I live? do I have anything in common with you? It would make the introductions between strangers much more efficient, no?

Sound crazy? Not really, it’s simply a more real-time version of what we get on the Internet. The reason I’m thinking of this now is that on today’s Rocketboom I was introduced to project WoW, created by Aram Bartholl of Denmark. His concept for the project stemmed from his experience of gaming technology in Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, such as World of Warcraft, that feature characters’ names hovering above their heads. (I wonder, of course, why names are so significant in this game and whether or not if I click on the character I get access to additional information.) In any case, I am fascinated by Aram Bartholl’s decision to carry out a performance of this concept of names hovering over heads into the streets.

The result, while clumsy at times, is rather startling. As I watch the videos, my impulse is to hover my mouse over the person to find out more information. Which led me to the subject of this post, and my invention for replicating virtual life on the streets… It’ll happen.

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