Digital Ego/Digital Id

It seemed so easy at first. Bits. Bytes. Buying. Booting. (Some of us remember what a chore that was.) But the complexity of the digital environment threatens to drive us apart just when the Internet's seductive call brings us together. As this infant digital world explodes we try to create portraits of ourselves as an evolving species. After all, if we can't recognize ourselves how will our offpring recognize us, or will they? And if they do, will they want to acknowledge us as their forebears? Do I want to be the genetic descendent of Hiroshima, Hitler, the white-sheeted pointed hats or the black holes of hatred?

In any event, we unfold and in the unfolding leave traces of our early digital selves. Here are a few sites exploring these issues.

Krijn von Noordijk has produced some startling images of us that belie the fantasies of Hollywood. Perhaps this is how we wish not to see ourselves, but the unrelenting nature of these close-ups leaves little room to hide. The online sponsor of this photographer, Luminous-Lint, describes itself as a site "for Collectors and Connoisseurs of Fine Art Photography." It too is worth exploring.

"Strange Paths: Physics, Computation, and Philosophy" is a dense website "where reality becomes about itself". You will want to spend some time checking out their offerings - one of my favorite spots brings us a computer representation of a two-dimensional electron flow. Another area shows us that patterns of existence defy our expectations of predictable courses, like that of a river. Instead we find "the cumulative chaotic effect of encountering random positive 'bumps' in the atomic landscape'". While you are on the site, check out the classical molecules animation. And then, as you contemplate the world of patterns, be sure to read "Patterns, Space, and Time" by Trudy Myrrh Reagan on our Electronic Quill page this month. quill

Have you seen the Heinecken so-called fem-bot ad on TV recently? The word shemale comes to mind, but this evocative exploration of an evolving species merits attention. In the same vein, Michael Takeo Magruder has created an "Encoded Presence" auto-portrait which he describes as a new type of portraiture, one which examines our digital selves. Click on the animation for more data on its creation.

We've all heard about artificial life, but how about wet artificial life? Scientists at ProtoLife in Venice, Italy, claim that within ten years we will have created man-made life forms that can use signals from the environment to replicate and mutate. The new forms will also be able to take raw materials from the environment and transform them into food. Additionally, Dr. Jack Szostak, Harvard University scientist, claims that within less than a year the first step - "creating a cell membrane" - will occur. Dr. Szostak was one of three recipients of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation Award in 2006 for basic medical research. More information on his researches into the foundations of life can be found at

Carmin Karasic has used GPS and mobile digital technologies to create "Hand Held Histories as Hyper Monuments" The project was commissioned by New Radio and Performing Arts Inc. and it aims to dissect history's bias within media literacy.

Finally, I show you a digital portrait of adolescence, which I created for a series called "Hot Zones" ten years ago. Output onto plexiglass with a custom-designed polished steel support, it epitomizes the zones of transformation that we have been exploring this month. The piece is available through the new Paul Mahder Gallery in San Francisco in mid-September.

c.Corinne Whitaker 2007