1. About Me

Posted: October 1st, 2015

        Being a tall kid throughout my childhood, always led me to draw parallels between my height and my aspirations to be something bigger and better than everyone around me. My family was and still continues to be my greatest motivation and the characters who I use as role models are individuals I can learn and grow from to better my abilities and myself as a whole, every new day. My name is Elan Okonsky and I am from San Diego, California. Being the youngest of three boys, my parents had a learning curve throughout the adolescence and delinquency of my two older brothers, Mearon (1983) and Ariel (1989) prior to my coming of age. Throughout many years of the rebellious, angst-filled desires of Ariel and Mearon, my parents made it a goal to guarantee a better upbringing and future for myself. Growing up in San Diego, CA during the midst of the skateboarding/punk-rock era of the 90’s, my environment within the house and anything outside strongly consisted of anyway to incorporate skateboarding and toilet-humor. The influential aspects of having two older brothers who were in high school during my sponge-brain stage made obvious contributions towards the individual who I've become.
        As I transitioned into junior high, the wrong-doings of my once-immature older brothers became more prevalent in my everyday life between my parents educational desires as well as Ariel and Mearon’s brotherly encouragement. Little did I know that my teenage mentality was driving me down the same, if not worse path of my brothers which led me to a revelation where I decided to actually listen rather than stubbornly protest against everyone who wished better for me at the time. That decision was the end of my desire to become someone who I was not and to follow my intrinsic desires to develop in a more professional manner towards the things I sought after as a soon to be high school student.
        When Ariel and Mearon were in high school, Blink 182 was still playing with Scott Raynor and the only thing I wanted out of life was to be as great as the two brothers I was raised beside. Soon enough high school was around the corner and I realized that my correctness of a better self was only bringing me further from my twelve year old aspirations and closer to the hopes of dreams of my parents. During that time, I was slowly but surely maturing into a focussed individual which was everything opposite of my two brothers, especially as a high schooler. Till this day, I use my parents, Ariel and Mearon as the reasons as to why I have made it to greater feats in my young ife, such as pursuing my dreams in a less-destructive fashion.
        The steps needed to follow in order to reach a point of contentness or satisfaction is simply as reflecting and learning. I feel that I used my environment and my influences as guideposts of developmental characteristics and methods for maturation. By the end of my high school career, I had everything I could imagine, and more due to the painstakingly long arguments of how I could better myself in class, in respect of my family, and in quality enhancement of my individual self from the critique of my brothers who were not so fortunate in regard to having age-comparable mentors throughout the days which mattered most as children.
        If there could be one thing that is implanted into my children’s head’s, it is that I hope they will carry on the importance of reflective decision-making and mench-like attitudes which came from my Holocaust-surviving grandparents, my ever so hard working mother and father, and my direct lineage to incredible individuals that I am so thankful to consider my family.
        There is only so much that can be conveyed into a written piece about oneself, but through the explanation of fault, growth, and desire; a clearer understanding of where I have learned, what I have learned from my experiences, and how I plan to continue growing, demonstrates difficultly conveyed attributes of a person.

2. Arrays, Grids, Avatars:

Posted: October 10th, 2015

        The usage of Avatar’s and the characterized resemblance we strive to emulate in a digital medium is a now-vintage form of media being that popular outlets of creativity in the digital realm stray away from the usage and encouragement of avatars and more so of professional profiles. Contrary to the truth of our current stage in social media and online engagement, the “avatar” that was once a digitized persona of our attributes and aspirations still is considered a valued imagination of certain things that are potentially more difficult to convey through a profiled headshot or a filtered and edited photograph.
        The initial purposes of digital avatars and the way we transfer meaning of our own selves in avatar-form was to allow us to translate our real-world and the views of our existent space into the virtual spectrum. Inside Beth Coleman’s Hello Avatar, she states, “These social phenomena [physical characteristic-applications towards interpretive modes of social power] carry over from the real world and into the virtual because we take our worldview with us when we go online.” (Coleman; Hello Avatar: 2011)
        Coleman’s interpretation of the social strength of digitally rendered images of our personalities and person accurately describes how the world, physical and virtual, is essentially a mirrored depiction of how we see ourselves in a virtually enhanced entity. Interestingly enough, the unrealistic approaches some take within the avatar-based universe brings to light the dramatization of particular features and characteristics. Examples provided by Lisa Nakamura, an acclaimed ‘media scholar’, which demonstrate applied generalizations of avatar characters range from the height of an avatar-image and it’s ability to portray “strong human signals," or the skin tone and race/ethnic profile of an avatar initially bring to light of blunt stereotyping, rather than a transliteration of an individuals qualities. (Nakamura; Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in the Internet: 2002)
        Personally, I view my ‘avatar’ as a realistic interpretation of how I hope the world to see me. The realism behind this particular piece is that at one given moment, the avatar is a cartoonish replication of my actual self, and throughout everyday life, this avatar is a representation of what I work towards in life and where my greatest interests stand, intrinsically or physically distinguishable.

3. A Picture Is Worth 300 Words:

Posted: October 20th, 2015

        Upon first impressions and even with a critical eye, the collage of all familiar (and non-familiar) slurs representative of the identity associated per character in my exposition, serves as textual identification of a person, yet the usage of stereotypes is dispelled within my illustration being that each figure is in fact human. The application of a title, grouping, and derogatory identity unto a person is a social pandemic which will never be entirely resolved, but can be eliminated by influencing better, one by one, day by day.
        In history and our current state, prejudice and racism is still prevalent in a vast amount of our everyday lives. The directional antagonism assigned to race and religion groups is only one perspective, but it is a more contemporary topic of study to analyze how White/Caucasian people are not even the slightest bit of a victimized group. Whether we use an international or domestic lens of analysis, the white individual is less prone to social stigma and stereotyping, compared to that of oriental, black, hispanic, and religious groups of individuals, all physical representative of their particular ethnic assignment. Andil Gosine, the author of Brown to Blonde at gay.com: Passing White in Queer Cyberspace, introduced an interesting case study of his own by engaging in online activity where he was always presumed to be white, more interestingly in a region where “half of its resident population of five million consists of non-white peoples”.
        The assignment of heavy stereotyping per individuals and groups, attacks every one possible on a most frequent occurrence, except that of the white race. The prevalence of heavily saturated white environments as well as predominantly varied-race areas of the world leave encourage little to no antagonism towards the white man and through the medium in which I chose to represent my spectacle, I displayed how the white individual is subject to stereotypes of nothing harmful or less of a well-rounded and educated being, compared to the polar opposite of man’s variety of cultures and common stigmas. Unfortunately, the truth is this binary and erroneous, yet as a culture and ultimately as a species, we can learn to dispel these sorts of negative attributes and learn to love rather than bicker against one another.
        In Full - “In the absence of information stating my “race” or ethnicity, some men with whom I engaged in conversations at Gay.com appeared to assume I was white. But whether due to the particular demography of Toronto (a city where half of its resident population of five million consists of non-white peoples), the influence of prevailing Canadian discourses on multiculturalism that encourage strong ethnic identification, more equitable access to internet technologies in Canada, or some other reason, most of the users with whom I interacted did not seem to immediately assume I was white.” - Brown to Blonde at Gay.com: Passing White in Queer Cyberspace; Andil Gosine

4. The Art of Listening:

Posted: November 20th, 2015

        The environment in which we are surrounded by, and ultimately which we surround ourselves with is continuously fascinating. A mountain basin filled with contemporary livelihood yet a number of miles up, you find yourself engulfed by the tremendous height of Douglas Firs and California Redwoods, surrounded by shade and reminiscence of the morning dew that once plagued the vast fields of our campus, and most presently, an energy of humility blended with the desire to improve the world for tomorrow. My observations may be deepened in comparison to my fellow peers, however I consider this particular observation to attribute to the analysis of my environment and the way my senses coordinate with my thoughts.
        During my time as a witnessing body of the Ultra-Red experience, I was introduced to the concept of listening as an abstract method of communicative thought-processing, or simply as a means of hearing how a message can be conveyed by devoting further energy towards the interpretation of information through concentrated listening. The exercise of engaged sound-walks allowed the group which I was apart of to focus our energy and communal-relations with one another through a surprisingly quiet and focussed practice. The community of our group was the focus of our project, being that we are all active students here at UCSC, however each one of us demonstrated key differences that specified the differentiation amongst our group from solely being students of University of California, Santa Cruz.
        The result of my personalized excerpt was a musical piece that I recorded with a musical partner which incorporated a slim clip from my particular sound walk. Throughout the exercise, I began to develop a slightly odd perspective on how my education has merged with my habits of mind when I surround myself in an environment that encourages deep, progressive thought. As we continued to walk and rotate roles, I appreciated how we, as a group of diverse and age-different individuals came together on a very weird yet peacefully/meditative level.
        Extracted from Protocols from Fieldwork, II - FIVE PROTOCOLS FOR ORGANIZED LISTENING (2012), Ultra-red stated “The researchers organize listening sessions for their own group and for people from the community. Through all these actions, the team learns to listen as a method of research and organizing. As the investigators render more precisely their arguments, the investigative question deepens and expands.” Personally I feel a strong parallel between their brief passage and our group exercise where the actions of our team attributed to a method of environmentally and psychologically enhancing exercise. Interestingly enough, it may not have incorporated ideals of political and cultural military/militance, which I strongly believe is something more beautiful than as if it did provide that for myself. It is difficult to draw abstract ties to things that are very binary, however if one sees a conjunction, I would be curious to understand how they perceived the environment in which that believed to be a symbol of the backgrounding study.

5. The Augmented Human:

Posted: December 3rd, 2015

        According to Sara Ahmed, a world- renowned academic, the correlation of information between concept and body is not as binary as one would presume. The impression in which an installation of whatever the context may be can only transfer an undeterminable percentage of information that will attribute to how the individual is perceived compared to that of his or her beliefs and mode of transcription. Ahmed claims “The impressions we have of others, and the impressions left by others are shaped by histories that stick, at the same time as they generate the surfaces and boundaries that allow bodies to appear in the present.” (Sara Ahmed, “Collective Feelings; or, The Impressions Left by Others,” Theory, Culture, and Society 21 (2004): 39)

        Comprehensive English would translate her claim into the predisposed information we, as humans possess about people or the particular individual in this case, that we are left with an understanding that holds greater power than to an idea which that individual conveys through practice of subject, “art” being the relevant subject. The themes which we have encountered throughout the course of our class touch on the topics of translation of information through artistic mediums and how, in our class we have had the opportunity to incorporate the concept of intersection of expression and internalized perspectives which we all personally possess.

        Jennifer Gonzalez, the author of The Face and the Public: Race, Secrecy, and Digital Art Practice, states how the internet is “viewed as a potentially progressive domain for overcoming berries that otherwise obstruct or restrict ideal forms of participation in the public sphere.” The day and age of technological data spreading and the ease of access in which we have information at our disposal has essentially corrupted the way our world is interpreted through our own eyes.

        My “Augmented Reality” Project exemplifies these words through a mockery of how profiles constructed online can cause one to develop an impression of a particular character who, in reality may not demonstrate any characteristics of his or her posted beliefs, publicly scrutinized and available on Facebook (case-specific).
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