Brooke Singer, Paul Cunningham: Self-Portrait version 2.0

  • ©2002, Brooke Singer and Paul Cunningham
  • Self-Portrait version 2.0



    Self-Portrait version 2.0


Creation Year:



    online application


Artist Statement:

    Self-Portrait version 2.0 (SPv2) is an online application available at SPv2 explores how identity can be constructed and perceived through data collection in cyberspace. Some data in cyberspace we consciously create to represent ourselves (emails and Websites, for instance). Other bits of data accumulate without our efforts-and many times without our knowledge-tracing certain elements of our interactions both in the physical and virtual worlds. Because of this data that we do not willingly disperse, our cyber image is not always in our control nor ever fully knowable to us. SPv2 explores to what extent we are accessible online and what we may look like through mining Internet data.

    When you enter SPv2, you can choose to activate data from three categories: DataMine, DataWake and Join Me! As a user makes their selections, SPv2 grabs data from the chosen source, translates the data into a visual representation and displays it to the user. One may layer the various visual depictions to eventually achieve data chaos.

    SPv2 updates the genre of portraiture for the information age. In the history of Western art, portraiture traditionally fulfilled the purpose of reinforcing wealth and power. SPv2 is an inversion of this power structure; it results in a reconstruction of the self after it has been digitized, analyzed, shared, and sold.

Technical Information:

    The brains behind the SPv2 server uses Comet Way’s Agent Kernel written in Java. The SPv2 project depends on dynamic retrieval of information from the Internet. For this purpose, Java agents search, retrieve, and interpret online information. Since none of the data is directly readable by Macromedia Flash (the program used to create the SPv2 Website), agents must translate the gathered information into a Flash-compatible format. Java agents make the translation using shareware called Swift-Generator (

    For example, a Java agent is at work in SPv2 when a viewer clicks on the “Incoming Email” option under the DataMine menu. A Java agent accesses Brooke’s POP3 account, dynamically generates text files based on email contents, and then serves these files as Flash properties to the SPv2 Web site. Another instance of agents at work in SPv2 is when the Web search option is activated. Here the Comet Search agents handle the more complex process of using popular search engines to find links related to Brooke Singer that are then crawled to find image files. These image files are deposited onto the SPv2 server and later appear in the SPv2 browser window.

    The entire SPv2 server is, in fact, comprised of Comet Way agents—even the Web server is an agent and has been running on Macintosh servers under Mac OS 10.1. The Comet Ways Agent Kernel is open source and available at

Process Information:

    SPv2 uses Java-based agents:
    – to retrieve Brooke’s email over POP3
    – to retrieve weather information for a specified zip code
    – to download Web cam images from Brooke’s studio and other sites
    – to search the Web for pages relating to “Brooke Singer”
    – to crawl Web search results and download GIF and JPEG images
    – to convert all images into swf files for use by Macromedia Flash
    – to retrieve a person’s date of birth using specified name and zip code
    – to retrieve census (lifestyle) information for a specified name and zip code
    – to retrieve Google images for a specified name
    – to periodically remove old Google images from the file system
    – to report system errors and activity to Brooke via email
    – to log user activity to the filesystem
    – to serve flash content over http