During the time I was shooting my "Alter Ego" project, I visited a lot of internet cafes in South Korea and China. By western standards some of these places were huge. Row upon row of people staring at screens for hours and days on end. There were stories of people who'd died because they'd neglected to eat or drink whilst immersed in their games or online activities. I realized that this phenomenon was also taking place in the west, we just couldn't see it so much, because people were doing it at home and at work (smartphones hadn't come out at this point, so the sight of multitudes transfixed by their screens in public places, was not yet commonplace).
Two things sprang to mind- the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher with it's systematic or "scientific" approach, and the work of Errol Morris, and his "Interrotron". I liked the idea of creating a system in order to try and minimize the event of taking pictures, whilst maintaining a fairly produced look. The subjects are on-screen, whilst being immersed in it, and often our point of view is looking directly into their eyes, which creates a voyeuristic, intense feeling. I wanted to capture reactions to as much of the full range of media types as possible- from video games to pornography, children's cartoon's and mainstream entertainment, to torture videos. And ultimately to organize this procession as if charting a journey through life.
Exploring this territory around watching and being watched, especially during this time period, was in some ways unsettling. Facebook, Twitter and smartphones had just appeared. It was easy to see how dramatically things were changing, and that this change would reach right into psychological, political and interpersonal realities. But the project has occasionally been interpreted as being a sort of call to arms, a protest. Not only would that be hypocritical if were true- I'm completely addicted to my phone and to computers- but I also find emotive campaigns of that nature unappealing. It's intended as a hyperreal, slightly kitsch document of the attention economy; a strange and intrusive system that I participate in, often with no real intention.