The starting point of our project is to extract the “tags” that characterize the Arts Collaboratory members in order to map our “common language”.

tagcloud_minga platform_2016-01-22_11.07.18 AMSince we started the project, we have been exploring “tags” as a general concept and the use of social metadata in particular. Tags are an example of how the internet is changing the way in which we communicate, organize, and share information.The hashtag arose in 2007 as a way to categorize and “tag” tweets and it has become, in a few years time, part of language, representing a fundamental shift in the way we communicate, search for information, classify, but also, they way we think.

Our Minga Utopia platform includes a “tagcloud” bar where the most common tags selected to accompany our posts are displayed (and their relative importance according to their use). As part of our contribution, we have been sporadically observing the changes in the tag cloud (and saving them). As we write this post, the most prominent keywords are: “change of habits,” “consume habits experiments,” and “ecology;” a few months back, “art” seemed to be a main topic.

As part of the project for Casa Tres Patios, we have been developing an on-going exploratory website: the Mapping Utopias site, understood as a living archive of the artistic/research process that is part of our contribution to the Minga: Rethinking Utopias project. The #utopia page or component in the website presents a selection of the hashtags that we occasionally find in Instagram under the tag: utopia.

Tags and hashtags have permitted the easy search for posts around a certain topic. And they have become a useful source of exploration and research, to the extent that hashtags have contributed new ways of examine meaning: from a massive volume of individual and ordinary sources, common people that share information online.

The #utopia page navigates superficially through the idea of utopia as an online narrative. When I first began the selection from Instagram posts a couple of months ago, there was a prevalence of utopia signs and grafittis (including a sign in Spanish that reads: “Creemos en la utopia porque la realidad nos parece imposible” / “We believe in utopia, because reality seems impossible”), but other more surprising and strange elements appeared as well. Among them: a utopia drink “handcrafted to perfection”; a bright fucsia “utopia” tone of lipstick; Utopia Mas costumes especially designed for the Carnaval do Brasil; and plenty of women’s faces, before and after makeup transformation photos, which reminds me of a beauty salon I recently saw while driving through a small town in Montana, USA called uTOEpia. These online narratives of utopia link the notion to being able to create a malleable self and/or society.

In our next post we will be expanding on the question: Are hashtags changing the way we communicate and refer to the world?

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