AmI On the Worldwide Grid
AmI On the Worldwide Grid is a critique of digital identity, through the analysis of Lil Miquela as an AI influencer, in conjunction with Instagram as a site for production of the commodified female. AmI the cyborg is a manifestation of the ease with which our online identities are mutable, and visually represents how online, beneath all of the filters, captions and optimized poses, we are nothing more than humans stripping ourselves of our real identities. This static, web-page platform through which AmI exists is meant as a re-imagination of the site of Instagram, playing upon its limitations to speak to viewer culture in Web 2.0, where we are encouraged to submit to the gaze and simply consume passively.
Lil Miquela is a digitally created Instagram personality and ‘it-girl’ conceptualized by LA-based tech-startup Brud.The AI robot’s digital body transcends realms as she presents herself with real people in real spaces, for example herinterview with J Balvin at Coachella. In this sense, the creation that is Lil Miquela can be considered performance art at its postmodern peak, especially when taking into account the very fact that “performance is not bound to a fixed site where people interact face to face, but can instead exist and circulate in networks of sociability and in multiple documentary traces” (Burisch 20).
Traditionally, the computer avatar represents a “graphic stand-in for the human body within virtual worlds” (Dixon 259), however one must consider in the present day the extent to which a platform such as Instagram gives the illusion of autonomy to a cyborg. Lil Miquela not only puts into question what we - as users of Web 2.0 - create, post and share, but also the idea that we willingly give up influence to an avatar that is created to represent our desires within an online identity. That being said, the feminization of artificial intelligence is reflective of systemic and cultural values which idealize women as “objects, symbols of docility and subservience” (Jotanovic 33), something which is highly conceptualized and commodified through the platform of Instagram.
Using Instagram as a ‘world’ for the life of Lil Miquela, it is important to analyze Instagram as a site for the commodification and creation of female identities. As a platform, the social media giant offers a site for user creation, curation, participation and the creation of “an identity one chooses to share with the larger world” (Wiederhold 215). However, we can think of Instagram as a box, wherein avatars are free to learn from human behaviour and in turn re-create the socially embedded values of our online identities, both good and bad. Here, AmI is contained in the box, reduced to the most bare of elements, taking into consideration Stermitz’s thoughts on the virtual body as she writes “losing the body in times of virtual reality, avatar and cyborg values the body as obsolete in its natural manner, although it is in reality still existing” (538). While Lil Miquela is the dolled up, “expectations” of the cyborg influencer, AmI contrasts this as the “reality” of the digital. It forces us to wonder; how Am I on the Worldwide grid?
Brud. “Lil Miquela.” Instagram, www.instagram.com/lilmiquela/.
Burisch, Nicole. “Never Enough/Jamais Assez: on documentation, proximity, and Nadège Grebmeier Forget’s SUITE from the series Oneon one’s for so-called fans.” Core Program Catalog, Houston: Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 2015. (12 pages)
Dixon, Steve. “The Digital Double.” (Chapter 11) Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art,and Installation. London: The MIT Press, 2007, pp 241- 270.
Hubble, C. (2018). Miquela Sousa and the rise of fake influencers. Eureka Street, 28(13), 20-22.
Jotanovic, Dejan. “THE FUTURE IS FEMBOT: Can We Change the Direction of Gendered AI?” Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, no. 79, Summer 2018, pp.30-33.
Stermitz, Evelin. “World of Female Avatars: An Artistic Online Survey on the Female Body in Times of Virtual Reality.” Leonardo, vol. 41, no. 5, 2008, pp. 538-539.
Wiederhold, Brenda K. “The Tenuous Relationship Between Instagram and Teen Self-Identity.”Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, vol. 21, no. 4,2018, pp. 215–216., doi:10.1089/cyber.2018.29108.bkw.
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