One of the premises of Facebook era social media is that computers can determine who you are based on what you like--that is, your consumer choices.
An art rooted in social media has two possible stances regarding this omnipresent fact: to confront or ignore.
Confronting would mean the old-fashioned critique of capitalism (tired and boring).
Ignoring means you are a clueless person in a state of denial about your basic medium.
Artists are by nature feisty non-conformists who question all premises to arrive at an original idea.
Social media assumes originality means making choices from menu items.
Seems like a doomed premise to make art. The best work consists mostly of research and listmaking from the vast pool of weird, menu-clicking humanity, to find expressions others overlooked. How is this different from the trendspotting or coolhunting of marketers, though?
Here is a list of movies Netflix thinks I might be interested in, based on my past watches:
Bad Company with Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock - wtf; insulting
The Stepfather - would be interested in seeing the 1987 version again, scripted by Don Westlake and starring Terry "John Locke" O'Quinn, not this recent remake
Labyrinth - seen it
Fawlty Towers - right, because I watched a Monty Python from 1971; next
Enemy Mine - seen it
Barton Fink - wouldn't mind seeing it again
Suspiria - own DVD
A Woman is a Woman - seen it
The Hunted - late Friedkin, I don't think so
Fire in the Sky - doesn't sound interesting
That's one out of ten (Barton Fink) but they only need one to keep me in the system so the computer is pretty clever. If I take the time to rate Barton Fink and other movies I've watched Netflix will gradually build a more and more refined picture of who I am as a movie watcher. This data could then be shared with a larger social networking platform that would introduce me to other Barton Fink watchers who must be a lot like me. We could form Barton Fink groups. Through these groups--who knows?-- I might hook up with some old high school friends who could pass along tips for interesting music to download from indie sites. Eventually I'll give up this blog--what was I thinking, trying to have my "own" expression--and spend all my time chatting and being steered toward new products I can buy for a nominal cost.
Update: Am told that an unsympathetic reader reduced this post to a bullet point about not liking so-called recommendation engines. That's very true, way to simplify an argument. Let's reiterate it: people interested in some idea of "art on the net" at some point are going to have to agree with industry's premise that a machine-aided Daily Me is possible (this reader obviously does) or will cling to the idea that while a human mind can lose at chess or Jeopardy it will always be more subtle and perverse than an "engine." This doesn't rule out the idea of a synthetic person, down the road, with thought patterns based on human ones; it's only to say that from what we've seen of humor from this species so far, it's been mostly unintentional. The AI, when it comes, will likely build consciousness from the inside out rather than springing into existence as an aggregation of influences. It will also likely be very different from us (but still won't like Bad Company with Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock).