Hi, I’m Yeli. I’m a maker of lots of things that mostly live on the web.
Today I’m going to talk about something that is very important to me and should be very important to you and that is...
This was taken about this time last year during senior thesis presentations. My thesis project was how data visualization can play a part in exposing corruption and making the government in Nigeria more efficient. The talk went really well but the project…..not so much. I never actually finished the project because of anxiety. In my mind this was my one shot at saving my country so I put a lot of pressure on myself and just...never finished it.
So, I’m going to talk about what I started doing after that massive failure. Instead of making things that I was convinced would help the world I started making things with a different goal.
One thing you should know about me is that I deflect compliments about myself unless they are related to me being funny. Objectively, I’m hilarious and there’s not enough of my funny to go around because obviously I can’t be friends with everyone so I started
Making twitter bots 1) to make myself laugh and 2) to replicate my behavior and spread my funny around the internet. So I’m going to talk about my bots!
A while ago I saw this: a governor mixed milk with chocolate and drank it to show his commitment to diversity. I thought it was hilarious and I started thinking of what else could be mixed to demonstrate that commitment.
So I made a bot called DiversityInTheMix that basically parodies that. (read out tweets)
More recently, at SFPC we’ve been trying to write our artist statements, and we’re basically just learning how to use jargon. It kind of feels like the language used in the art industry and in a lot of academic circles are convoluted just for the sake of being so. So I was thinking about that and I made
ArtConnoisseur bot that inteprets art. I know its working because I have no idea what it’s saying.
This next one is the first bot I ever created. And I think it should be pretty self-explanatory.
It just tweets who and what my president is.
And the last bot I’m going to talk about, I was thinking about lots of things -- ageism, societal pressure, what I don’t like about the Forbes 30 Under 30 so I made a bot called Y_Under Y that gives awards to any and everyone. For example,
For example, I imagine any of us that have ever taken the subway are eligible to be on this award list.
So obviously, there’s a bit of a difference with my thesis project and all these bots I mentioned.
What changed in my approach to making? Well first I tried to be comfortable with making “crappy” things.
One of my favorite internet artists Darius Kazemi in a talk he gave about small projects said:
In 2009 I released two creative projects that were the culmination of about 200 hours of research and work and bug fixing and collaboration. It got on a few blogs, and he estimates about 10,000 saw either one of those projects.
In 2013 I released 73 projects. He spent about 350 hours total. He reached 500k to 1M people, and received coverage from all sorts of major news outlets.
What he did differently was that he started “making short, silly games in the course of 3-6 hours.” While he said the games were “kind of crappy,” he “got to finish something instead of staring at a design document wondering where to start.”
And the key here is that finished !== perfect.
He continued: “I’m not saying “don’t finish your work, just radically alter your idea of what “finished” means.” I would say my bots are funny 15% of the time which is nowhere near to my 100% but I think it’s pretty good.
Something else I tried to do was be comfortable making things that aren't explicitly useful.
There’s a hackathon started in NYC called The Stupid Shit No One Needs and Terrible Ideas Hackathon, which is an event where participants create projects that have no value whatsoever.”
And when asked why they created it, one of the founders shared stories of how they would be invited to “24-hour hackathons, where the goal would be to end water crisis.” A lot of time and energy is spent creating solutions that claim to be changing the world but aren’t actually doing so. Rather than that, "when you produce something that has no value on purpose, what you're really creating is a critique."
I liken it to what jenny, another digital artist describes as the value of doing nothing:“The function of nothing here, is that it’s a precursor to having something to say. Nothing is a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech.”
If we spent more time making work exploring spaces and critiquing, we’d be closer to knowing how to making solutions. I’m learning how to make my work by making my work. But also, I’m making these things for the sake of it, because I think I’m funny.
The last thing I want to say is while I encourage you to try critiques before espousing solutions and to try your hand at making useless things, take action in some other way if you can by donating, calling etc because the world is burning and has been for a while.