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7th June 2017, 10:42am
New digital artwork ‘Histolyrical’ takes viewers on a journey through social media hysteria
View out of a train window The latest creative commission for the digital arts project will be revealed today (Wednesday 7th June 2017) in a new work examining the effect of social media storms on people’s political ideas.

Named ‘Histolyrical’, the online commission explores how social media influences our thought processes and asks the question: is the hysteria of social media compromising freedom of thought? is a unique online platform that enables young people to explore the legacy of Magna Carta through the lens of contemporary art.

Led by the University of Lincoln, UK, in collaboration with regional arts organisations, businesses, schools and the city and county councils, is supported using public funding from the National Lottery through an Exceptional Award from Arts Council England and a host of national and international partners.

It launched in June 2015 at Lincoln Castle as part of the international celebrations on the 800th anniversary of the sealing of ‘the great charter’ and culminates in November 2017, marking the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest and coinciding with Lincoln's Frequency Festival of Digital Culture.  

Histolyrical is the latest digital art commission for and arrives on the two-year anniversary of the platform’s launch. It has been created by artists Ben Peppiatt and Stephanie Bickford-Smith, who collaborated with a group of young people from Lincoln to develop the work.

Tracking the Facebook activity of volunteers from across the UK in the days leading up to the European Referendum in June 2016, the artists explored social media consumption, tone of voice and content positioning in those pivotal days before the vote, considering how social media influences thought processes through subliminal messages.

The online experience takes the viewer on a metaphorical train journey, where they gaze out of the window and are lulled by trance-inducing soundtracks. They must decide whether or not to allow their thoughts to be interrupted by those of others as words appear on the screen, either abandoning themselves to these random musings or banishing them with a click of a button.

Artist Stephanie Bickford-Smith said: “Social media sites are super-efficient platforms that aid connectivity and information exposure. Increasingly they are becoming our gateway to the internet. However these sites are designed for consumption rather than contemplation. With HistoLyrical we are interested in questioning the impact this has upon our ability to think and process information coherently and what a more contemplative solution inspired by offline behaviours could look like.”

The online experience is the fourth of five artistic commissions planned for It follows the success of ‘The Empty Throne’, a featurette on Magna Carta created by Lincoln School of Film and Media filmmaker Phil Stevens and Lincolnshire scriptwriter Laura Turner, ‘Time for Rights’ live video event by Tim Kindberg and ‘spaceREC’ soundscape project by Kathrin Böhm.

Dr Sarah Barrow, Deputy Head of the College of Arts at the University of Lincoln and project lead at the University, said: “All the artworks produced for have examined themes of freedom, liberty and democracy in interesting and insightful ways and this latest work tackles one of the most pressing questions facing democracies today: the influence of social media on how we think and interact with one another.”

Histolyrical will be released on at 12 noon on Wednesday 7th June. For the full experience, Histolyrical is best accessed on a tablet or a computer. The website also features an interview with the artists and the story behind their commission.

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