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Take a Trip to Twitter Island at Chicago Art Department

By Jen Hazen in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 25, 2009 5:15PM

image courtesy of Seth Gershberg
There’s something a little irritating about the word 'Twitter.' Maybe because we hear it 10,000 times a day. Chicago is, after all, ranked third on the Twitter Cities List. And the adoration of the real-time messaging service has reached a fever pitch. Politicians doing it while in session, cable networks going ape shit over it, media moguls chronicling their craps.

When is it just too much? When we use Twitter to “talk” with a friend standing right next to us? When we block mom from “following” our tweets? When we tell a stranger to go straight to hell in 140 characters or less?

Find out at Chicago Art Department this Saturday, March 28 at Twitter Island, a social networking experiment and art “performance” piece that seeks to answer questions about Twitter’s impact on communication, tension, and the ‘true self.’ Chicagoist’s Lauri Apple and CAD Resident Artist Seth Gershberg aim to explore how people communicate with strangers anonymously by having 30 volunteers tweet on Twitter while in the same room.

Here’s how it works: Volunteers, equally separated into two groups, will receive an anonymous Twitter account. One group is allowed to let ideas flow freely, unhindered by outside influence. The other will be a “control” group, seeded with questions from a moderator. For 90 minutes, all volunteers will be asked to Twitter with the others in their group, while being filmed. When time's up, participants will be asked questions about the experience, and will also be invited to create something based on their conversations. Their creations, and the film, will then be featured at a gallery opening.

Whether Twitter Island will end like a Greasers vs. Socs beatdown or a white glove etiquette affair is anyone’s guess. But it will be interesting to find out what happens when people must confront one another with technology, rather than talking, while looking into one another’s eyes.

Interested in volunteering for Twitter Island? Contact Lauri at[at] And bring a laptop and cell phone!

Chicago Art Department, 1837 S Halsted, Saturday, March 28, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. Free.