Designer and Pitch Studio’s director, Christie Morgan, and strategist and copywriter, Taylor Mitchell, started Pitch Portal as a creative lab to explore everything that makes up the ‘digital world’. Despite the fact that they don’t really like to use that term—because everything digital is a part of real-life these days— their latest work Streaming Consciousness explores where exactly those two worlds, online and IRL, meet.
For the experiment, they rounded up a sample of 20-something creative types and asked them to ‘thought dump’ into a Slack channel for six months, in an attempt to understand what we share the most on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and why we do it in the first place. They collaborated with Twomuch Studio and Nathalie de Valliére on the website design and build and Ana Roma on sound design. The end result is an interactive site that you can scroll through endlessly, full of 50 people’s deepest and weirdest thoughts, as well as a documentation of some of the more mundane everyday occurrences.
“Interpersonal relationships, but with the backdrop of your identity vs the planet came up a lot”, shared Taylor. “A lot of the time people were annoyed or touched by their relationships, and expressed a lot of anxiety.” Ahead of their panel discussion at Loop Project Space in Melbourne tomorrow night, we spoke to Christie and Taylor about their process.
Tell me about the initial concept for Streaming Consciousness. What did you envision?
Taylor: The idea came from a group chat I am in with a few close friends where people would just post things that happened or feelings we were having. I thought it was interesting that it was almost enough that those thoughts had been heard… I was also seeing all these alternative modes of communication that were like remixes of the original use of a platform, like Facebook groups, and how Instagram stories have lead to more nuances in conversation. So with Streaming Consciousness we wanted to create an alternative communication model using Slack, with no quantitative value put on posts. We wanted to see if that would change how people understood themselves on the platform.
Christie: Yeah you kind of get a different perception of the content you’re assuming by removing any hierarchy, like the idea of mindfulness and how you’re not meant to put any weight in your thoughts you just let them flow through you.
Did you speak to the subjects about their experience and whether it influenced the kinds of things they said?
Taylor: People said they felt very safe, and that it was almost therapy for them which was interesting. Some people said they could get a sense of a dialogue even though there was no dialogue. So there was a community formed even with very abstract communication…
Yeah online community is part of the way we all use social media and how technology and online spaces actually become a real part of our lives…
Taylor: Our initial research for the project was on Internet social theory, which covers all of that. Nathan Jensen, who is a researcher at Snapchat, talks about this notion of digital dualism which is wrong. We’re always online and interacting with the internet, you can be in a human situation and also be texting or filming. So it’s important that we start seeing the internet as an extension of human existence rather than something separate.
Absolutely, real-life is so connected to technology. What were some of the notable things that came up in the content?
Taylor: Because the experiment went from September to January, across 2018 and 2019, the Paris riots were happening and there was mention of Trump, which made us realise how that is a huge part of our lives. Streaming Consciousness definitely exists as a time capsule, but there are themes in there that are historically relevant too.
I found it so relatable like I was reading through my own messages. Did you find that?
Christie: Well we also participated—anonymously of course. We were unsure of what kind of content was going to be shared. A lot of people opened up with intimate thoughts, but also the random and mundane details of their lives. I definitely felt like I filtered myself, which is maybe a reflection of how I am online in general.
Taylor: It was interesting to think about how much weight we give our thoughts in the moment and how technology allows us to do that now. Looking back on the amount of things I said in the group that felt true, but were just a culmination of how I was feeling at the time made me realise that how people feel is complex. At the launch people were looking back at their thoughts and laughing… it’s interesting to think of in terms of cancel culture and things like that, because it is evidence that people are constantly evolving.
Do you think because we have all of these ways to document our thoughts and get them out there, that it is less permanent than having a journal or something hard copy? There is all this output happening at once, but it just goes into the ether…
Taylor: It feels like nothing, but it is something—all of that data still exists. There is a project happening that produces digital desk bot versions of people who have died using everything they have ever said online. It is incredibly accurate and they can talk about things that happened after they died, like current affairs. It makes you think about how much of ourselves we express online.
So how did it go from being a Slack channel to the format we see it in now?
Christie: We wanted the format to be digestible, but also alternative and emotional, which is why we ended up with an interactive site. Also that way anyone in the world can access the content.
Taylor: Also the reason we categorised everything is because Slack does that. I like how it keeps things organised… With other media like Instagram and Facebook you can read something life changing and then the next thing you see is food or something with no meaning, then the next is current affairs and the next is art. We were wondering if seeing all of that out of context makes it less valuable.
So there would be a lot of ethics to consider with the work, but are there other places you want to take it?
Christie: We are happy that we have created an alternative model for communication, but what we did was in a controlled environment if you compare us to platforms like Facebook or Reddit. We have had commercial and academic interest, so we are just brainstorming potential development for now.
Pitch Portal is hosting a panel discussion about Cultural Contribution in Commercial Spaces at Loop Project Space on the 25th of September. RSVP via Facebook here.