The Redirectory

MemoMi Lab’s Memory Mirror is a video screen that calls itself the world’s first digital mirror. Installed at Neiman Marcus, its touchscreen interface reads “a mirror that remembers you.” No one is being fooled here, we’ve been carrying around digital pocket mirrors for years. And yet, the term “digital mirror” might reach beyond the simple impulse to adjust your lipstick on the subway with a camera phone.

The Internet is a mirror. It positions us in a perpetual mirror stage, learning and re-learning what we are through the web; casting these curated & haphazard shadow-selves, watching them transform and proliferate. Selfies and Tinder profiles are to the individual what SEO services and Reputation Management are to the corporation. Truly, in a country where corporations have been granted legal “personhood,” this comparison does not feel off-base. How do the exploded, user-generated, “democratized” strategies of individuals differ in reach or aesthetics from professional services offered to companies at a cost? How might institutions imitate the individual identity online, and individuals imitate the institution?

As the legal system struggles to catch up with the complexities of digital life, Google assumes regulatory powers that conspicuously resemble a governing body, waving its Terms of Service as if it were a constitutional document. But who defines the ethical and legal boundaries of our online operations? Take the phenomenon of crowd-sourced law enforcement & surveillance apparent in the attempted identification of the Boston Marathon bomber, Black Lives Matter-era cop watch, or the cellphone as weapon during the Arab Spring; take the tension between vigilantism and cyberbullying in the work of 419 Scambaiters, consumer advocacy resources like Ripoff Report, or anonymous public conversations on YikYak. There exists both utopian and dystopian applications for every tool. The internet has the power to exalt, lynch or completely ignore; like a bratty toddler, there’s no way to really predict where its Goldfish crumbs will land.

And it is into this indifferent, scrutinized landscape that we cast these fragile projections of our selves--ghost of who we are and who we might be. Who can say exactly how our fragmented online identities, the lumpy summation of one’s Facebook photo feed, browser history, or memed infamy, shape who we are in the physical world?

The Redirectory is a loose, meandering collection of ongoing research, cataloging terms and narratives from these converging worlds of online identity formation. We bring together jargony techniques from the playbook of Black Hat SEO, case studies in digital vigilantism, our own experiments in deep self-googling, stupid puns we thought up... This glossary is a starting point, a way of cataloging details while also connecting disparate worlds; we welcome all additions and corrections. Please send us your neologisms, weird stories, and one-time offers for discount prescription drugs >>> All we ask for in return is a 5-star review.