What Can We Do With ‘Swurl’?

On: September 21, 2008
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About Hannah Biemold
Artist and blogger who wrote a novel last year in the NaNoWriMo program (National November Writing Month). The book, called 'In het hooi', has been published by Uitgeverij Vuurpapier in june 2010. Hannah finished the master New Media program in 2009 at the University of Amsterdam. She wrote a master thesis on Twitter implications (twesis). Besides this, Hannah is trying to visualize ideas about the world through conceptual art, she is looking for confrontation with these borders and wants to know of they're stretchable.


There are multiple websites online where users can leave a comments about what they are doing at this very moment, like for instance Twitter. Even on social network sites like Hyves and Facebook it’s common to use this feature and watch your friends day to day actions. On the latter is was one of the characteristics that made the website so popular in the first place. People like to watch other people, even online. It’s not that they spy on each other, it’s a social interest when people are part of a group and they want to know what the other members of the group are doing at the same moment as the user who watches, or the same day, maybe a week. And people share more than thoughts like pictures and music and links. There’s a possibility to have bookmarks of all these websites of use RSS feeds but it would be nice to have an overview of all content your friends and yourself on one page and Swurl.com is providing this service

Swurl basically just offers space for users to write and compose snippets of their lives or join together pieces from other sites. What is this tool and what are the social changes? The site offers space for widgets from other websites to begin with and thus creating an overview of someones life online, a blueprint of a certain datadouble. But also other website like Hyves and Facebook have the opportunity to embed widgets so there must be some kind of advantage Swurl offers that the others don’t? The great feature is the overview of all widgets together into what Swurl calls a timeline. This page can be quit confronting to see how much time and effort users put into their digital life and also how they connect with friends. If a user knows these ‘friends’ in real life or not. On one hand it saves a great deal of time not to check multiple sites for information but on the other hand is this timeline a possibility to spy on people so they cannot do anything unseen. This timeline is more a widget for a user to track down their own history and find back what happend when.

Then another thing that’s possible with Swurl, although I don’t think this is the intention of Swurl, is to add all friends to your own list of sources. This does create an enormous feed of everything your friends do on different websites. You can also see what friends they have on those websites. This way I also connect different people together as a group even if they don’t feel they’re in the same group. This way this site becomes a great surveillance tool of watching all my friends from a ivory tower like a modern panopticon. But is this ethical to do? all this information my friends put online that end up in feeds, can I or anyone freely use it and combine it? technically the answer is yes, but i feel bad creating this list without my friends consiously knowing about it.

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