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Deveron Projects

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Celia - Yunior

Faceloop

2013

A friend to all is a friend to none.
Aristotle
Mapping real friendships in our time of virtual social networks

Celia González and Yunior Aguiar came to Huntly in Spring 2013 from Havana/Cuba. They have collaborated since 2004 on diverse range of projects under the name Celia - Yunior, in Cuba and elsewhere.

Is the institution of friendship in trouble? Many believe that in the era of social media the very concept of friendship is changing, radically altering our circles of affection. Social media platforms such as Facebook, it can be argued, are allowing us to have more freinds, in more places, and on our own terms; offering us the opportunity to stay in touch more, to become involved more frequently and intimately in our friends lives. Turn on your latop, or mobile phone, and you are connected instantly. Or is in fact social media, Facebook et al, diminishing the quality of our friendships through a mediated approximation of the 'real' thing? Are our online relationships effecting our offline ones?

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Celia-Yunior aimed to map real friendships in a time of virtual social networks. The project investigated people's relationships in the facebook era. During their 3 months residency in Huntly, they gathered information offered by our townfolks' friendships. The place became the space where we could find direct human relations next to cybernet connections. The research resulted in a map that shows the connections among Huntly people and the ways they keep alive face to face relationships.

To do this the artists asked people they met in Huntly to introduce them to one of their friends, asking them again for an introduction, like a chain letter or Chinese whisper, thereby creating a human contact net, mapping all the real friendships in town. They also met people in a variety of spaces: the pub, the school, the farmer's market and the coffee morning; where people were asked to talk about their close and more distant friends with the assistance of a town map.

Faceloop took Dunbar's number as a starting point. Dunbar's number, first proposed by Oxford based anthropologist Robin Dunbar, is a suggested limit to the number of people with whom we can maintain stable social relationships - namely 150 people. Our social networks, he says, have a distinctive structure based on multiples of three, distinguishing friends from acquaintances by the way you feel about them. Friends are described as people with whom you really want to spend time with, while acquaintances are characterised by a momentary convenience. Friendships are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each of us relates to other people.

Looking at the pattern of relationships within a group of 150 there are a number of inner circles based on the level of intimacy. The innermost group consists of up to five people and represents the people you have the most intense relationship with. These are really good friends on whom you can rely on in times of trouble and whom you can approach for advice, comfort, help or even a loan of money. The next circle of about 15 is made up of a slightly larger grouping that typically consists of about ten additional people. Above this is then a circle of around thirty and more. These circles go up by a factor of three (five, fifteen, around fifty and 150).

It is debatable whether Dunbar's number is applicable to online social networks as well, as to date we don't know whether virtual engagements can stimulate the similar biological responses as face-to-face interactions do. Faceloop tested all this on a local level in one small town in the North East of Scotland.

Faceloop culminated in a full day event celebrating friendship from near and far. For the event the artists invited people to visit them in their house. The house was set up like a Facebook page with a Friends room, an Events room, a Write on the Wall opportunity, video and picture room.

   

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