Network Effect and the Limits of Digital Interaction

Network Effect

Exploring the iDoc Network Effect was certainly a unique and fairly dark experience. Rather than trumpeting the great potential of interactivity and knowledge pools made possible by new media, Network Effect instead illustrates the underlying problems with such systems. Specifically, that the constant barrage of seemingly unfiltered content bombarding us incessantly through dings, vibrations, notifications, emails, text messages, videos, and on and on ad infinitum, serves not merely to disconnect or distract us from lived experience but also has ushered in an age of anxiety. This very specific form of anxiety is not free floating but rather tethered to the fear of “missing out.”

The interface allows the user to pick certain keywords to “filter” results.
One of the many alternate screens. This particular screen frenetically scrolls news.

Kate Nash suggests that, “…interactivity [should] be conceived of as a multidimensional phenomenon in which the actions of users, documentary makers, subjects and technical systems together constitute a dynamic ecosystem” (51). Dynamism is of specific importance in relation to Network Effect. The platform is constructed as an endlessly explorable database consisting of video, text, audio, hyperlinks to outside sources, as well as graphs illustrating demographic information. Everything is clickable. The challenge Network Effect poses to the understanding of interactivity is not in its dynamism but rather the fact that it is too dynamic, too explorable. A cacophonous chorus of indeterminate voices read back Twitter posts while videos and headlines scroll across the screen, all clickable, all beckoning for our attention, all distracting from the real. The impossibility of exploring all content or even specific categories is problematized further by the ever-present ticking clock, which not only counts down to the end of that session of interaction but also locks the user out for a 24-hour period once zero is reached.

The experience ends with a calming meditation bell and the following quote:

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes” (Carl Jung).

This of course raises the question: is digital interactivity, with its promise of allowing a user to shape specific discourses to their will, still only fit for a dreamer?


Works Cited

Nash, Kate. “Clicking on the World: Documentary Representation and Interactivity.” New Documentary Ecologies. Print. 50-60.

Network Effect. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

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