For #TheSocialGraph, I proposed a look at the next step in social media — telepresence, which, in its simplest form is a large-scale video chat meant to mimic the presence of someone in the room, and at its most complex can take the form of a roving, camera-enabled robot.

Twitter pic of An Xiao’s “Telepresent” (2010) installation via @cynthialawson

Since almost as early as the invention of the telephone, human beings have imagined the possibilities of video communication. How amazing would it be to see each other over the phone? That technology now exists, as cameras become embedded in our computers and our smart phones. But even Apple has had trouble pushing it past niche uses. Video chat, for most people, is just too weird.

Beamed in from somewhere in Los Angeles, I was able to attend the opening virtually through Skype video (though I was a bit of a wallflower) and a large projection of myself. I chatted, took pictures, even traded cards, all via the screen, and I then posted the images onto Facebook.

By exploring this issue in the social setting of an art opening, where alcohol flows and certain social mores dominate, I hoped to explore the challenges of telepresence and the social uncanny valley of video conferencing technologies.

Chatting with performance artist Nate Hill and Outpost director Ruth Kahn

Meeting fellow Twitter-er Cynthia Lawson for the first time.

Hanging out with some of the gents behind Art21. We’d not seen each other in months!

It was a bit like Chatroulette, but situated in the real world with people I’d care to meet. Here, I share a beer with Julie Torres and Cojo Art

Trading cards in the virtual sphere with Martin Hoorweg of Times Square 2 Art Square

Admiring an original William Powhida piece with James Kalm, aka Loren Munk

Sometimes I felt excluded from the circles of conversation.

Some even gossiped about me right in front of my face.

But ultimately I received a warm welcome.

Maybe in some sense, we can indeed be telepresent.

See the rest of the images at the Hyperallergic photo album.  Did you take pictures with me?  Link to them here and I’ll be sure to place them online.

For an interview with the artist, please visit our post last week, “An Xiao Talks #TheSocialGraph, Social Media Art & Ai Weiwei.”

AX Mina (aka An Xiao Mina) is an author, artist and futures thinker who follows her curiosity. She co-produces Five and Nine, a podcast about magic, work and economic justice. 

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