Exhibit encourages ‘old-school social networking’

Using colourful Post-It notes, Rafi Ghanaghounian and his friends spent an evening at his apartment writing funny messages to each other.

Three days later on Feb. 16, he took a few of the accumulated sticky notes and tacked them to the walls of The Lakeview Restaurant at 1132 Dundas St. W.

For the last 13 years, Ghanaghounian has been curating art shows at various locations in Toronto. His latest exhibit titled ‘Embrace It!’ encourages people to jot down a brief thought, message or caricature, then stick it on any wall of the 24-hour restaurant.

Designed as a throwback to the days of communicating via the stroke of a pen, he referred to his project as “old-school social networking.”

“Handwriting is more passionate … You could almost read into that person,” Ghanaghounian said. “When you’re typing something out, it’s not personalized other than having your name at the bottom.”

Only two weeks in, already his exhibit has generated great response from the public.

“People realize, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t actually written anything in so long,'” he said.

In a time of instant communication using tools such as mobile texting and Twitter, Ghanaghounian thinks people are beginning to lose substance in their messages.

“Subconsciously, we’re just getting too used to sending instant messages,” he said. “When it is time for careful thought … it’s getting lost in translation.”

James Harrison, who teaches an Internet in Society course at Centennial College , acknowledged that people have felt apprehensive about change in technology for years.

“There’s this huge fear whenever new technologies come around that we’re losing something,” Harrison said. “Are we gonna lose the ability to hand write? … Is there something about handwriting that is so important to our expression of thoughts?”

Although Harrison has not seen Ghanaghounian’s exhibit, he described what the idea reminded him of and questioned whether it promotes interaction.

“A big wall of Post-It notes is sort of like YouTube to me … Some of it is good, some of it isn’t,” he said. “Are you really interacting because it’s on a piece of paper?”

While Harrison and Ghanaghounian agree that Twitter has its benefits, neither of them have an account with the web site.

“Tweeting to me is almost overload,” Harrison said. “You now have this public thing where everybody knows how lame you are.”

Ghanaghounian challenged the whole concept of Twitter’s brief status updates.

“So-and-so celebrity has a million followers on their Twitter, but they’re two-word, three-word little shout-outs,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re at Starbucks. What’s the point of me receiving these messages and why am I following it?”

With the walls now covered in multi-coloured Post-It notes, Ghanaghounian has succeeded in his aim of getting people to participate. He’s even watched people ’embrace it’ first-hand.

“The other day I was here, there was a big family and the kids were writing things and sticking them on the wall. But then this place is rockin’ at three in the morning after parties,” he said. “So the messages are different … Everybody is involved.”

About this article

By: Kerry Prunskus
Posted: Mar 5 2010 11:14 am
Filed under: Arts & Life

2 Comments on "Exhibit encourages ‘old-school social networking’"

  1. I don’t know…the article is pretty clear to me. Social networking has been around since the dawn of human interaction. The “old school” approach refers to Ghanaghounian’s use of pen and paper instead of modern computer technology. Sure, he could communicate the exact same message on Twitter instead of a post it note. The point of this article isn’t the message, it’s the medium being used. I think the writer does a good job showing us that something intangible is lost through web-based communication vs. the “old school” pen and paper. If anything, I would have like to see this topic explored in greater detail.

  2. I don’t understand this article. How exactly is ‘old school social networking promoted’? How are walls full of inane ‘post it’ notes, which resemble in contents, the asinine nature of most internet posts something we’re losing touch with? What deep mysteries are being revealed, and what truths are being recorded on these ‘post it’ notes, that can’t be recorded on the internet? While I have my own issues with social networking, I still get a kick out of Ghanaghounian’s challenge of Twitter’s function, given the fact that he does NOT have an account, hasn’t experienced it, and given the way the article is written, does not understand it.

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