Gaia Tedone

On the 27th of April 2017, Google celebrated the end of NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn with an amusing Google Doodle featuring the spacecraft swooping between the planet and its rings. This is how the world’s most popular search engine paid homage to a thirteen year mission in outer space, which collected valuable information on Saturn and its rings while also advancing the search for alien life in the universe. As I am writing, the Cassini spacecraft has begun the twenty-two orbits around Saturn that constitutes its mission Grand Finale, leading to its self-destruction. In what follows, I will explain the relevance of this information for eBay and project #exstrange.

Cassini is not only a NASA spacecraft named after Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the famous Italian-born astronomer of the Seventeenth Century. Crucially, it is also the name of the eBay search algorithm, which was enhanced in 2013 to improve the platform’s overall performance, selling standards and costumer satisfaction. Whether the choice of renaming the algorithm after Cassini was the in-joke of a geeky eBay programmer or marked a new trend in algorithmic anthropomorphism is still to be determined. What is certain is that I knew little about Cassini’s human and machinic identity when I accepted the invitation to
participate as a guest curator of the project #exstrange. I suspect Marialaura and Rebekah ignored the relevance of Cassini too. Nonetheless, the project #exstrange appealed to me as a groundbreaking curatorial mission for its willingness to take up great risk and explore uncharted territory. I was eager to join the team and be launched into orbit.

As a guest curator, I was asked to select three artists and produce a curatorial statement. The invitation resonated with my research interests, previously concerned with the entanglements between image circulation, commodification and curation. I was keen to collaborate with three artists whose practices imaginatively responded to the challenge: Niko Princen, Eva and Franco Mattes and Garrett Lynch. However, I soon became perplexed about the kind of curatorial role I could have within this specific context. Clearly, the project was already overtly curated. Marialaura and Rebekah had carefully orchestrated its framework, timing and documentation. The other invited guest curators, spread across the globe, were also bringing their distinctive perspectives. On top of this, an extra curatorial layer was embedded in eBay’s technological infrastructure as its selling categories and standard operating protocols reveal. Such a state of affairs begged several pressing questions: What is left to curate here? And what kind of language is appropriate to frame my own curatorial statement and intervention?

Hence, I decided to dive deeper into eBay, starting from digging into my own email correspondence with the platform over the years while noticing the specific language it employed. I then moved onto the website, browsing through its history, glossary, forum, community, and customer service pages. EBay was officially born in 1997, a few years after founder Pierre Omidyar wrote its code. Soon after, the platform established itself as an honest and open marketplace dedicated to bringing together buyers and sellers and producing “an army of bubble wrap entrepreneurs.” [1] As evoked by the title of the #exstrange project, eBay was one of the first online communities where people were exposed to ‘strangers’ and mingled—all in a pre-Facebook and pre-Tinder era. Since the year 2000, eBay has even run its own University course teaching users how to become master sellers. As my investigation moved from the general to the particular, I focused on two specific elements: the role and currency of images on the one hand, and of online curating on the other. Images play a key role on eBay as they support the functioning of the whole marketplace, acting as interfaces among different users and enabling multiple economic and social transactions. Specific criteria determine what is a ‘good image’ according to eBay standards so that everyone can become a photographer if tips and instructions are followed to the letter. One could go as far as arguing that eBay contributed to the creation of the standards of digital stock photography: its detailed guidelines command the use of plain backdrops, diffuse lighting and close-ups in order to best frame, scale and optimise the depicted objects. On the other hand, the currency and role of curating seems more ambiguous on the platform, as different kinds of items materialise when the word ‘curator’ is typed into the search engine. Amongst many other items, these include: a vintage postcard addressed to the Photography Curator of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum; protective oil for wood; humorous T-shirts; gadgets of Dr. Who TV series. Additionally, the whole spectrum of the literature on curating surfaces from the website, including books about art curating, new media curating and content curation. However, when it comes to the activity of curating on the platform, this seems to be associated, fairly conventionally yet predictably, with the creation of bespoke online collections. While easily available to all eBay users, members of staff strategically employ this function for marketing purposes. There is even an Office of the Chief Curator, which selects the most interesting, story-worthy and spectacular items on eBay. So, who is a curator online and what it means to curate on eBay and beyond?

The deeper I dove into my research, the more obvious it appeared that the project #exstrange itself had been swallowed up by the abyss of eBay’s stuff and the auctions were very often difficult to find. I could
encounter them only when following the links shared daily through social media and the #exstrange website. I began reflecting upon the actual visibility of #exstrange within the platform: Was it nil? Or was the project considered a potential threat by eBay, hence falling into the category of “breach of security” that appears in the company’s recent SWOT analysis–that is, its strategic business assessment based on market strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? [2] I pondered how such analysis could assist in situating the value of curation within the platform. Above all, I was curious to discover who were the project’s audiences and participants and why the works were not appearing on top of my search. It is at this point that I started to explore eBay analytics, its “Best Match” system and search engine. I soon discovered that there is no golden rule to succeed on eBay today, but certain steps can be taken to “be competitive and stay competitive” in the market place.3 The arrival of the ‘intelligent’ Cassini marked a new era in the platform’s history: the system has become more difficult to ‘game’ and rewards those “best practices” that boost customer engagement and enhance image quality standards.

Thanks to Cassini, I was finally able to produce a curatorial statement—a hyperlinked text where the highlighted keywords refer back to a page or acronym within the eBay website and its vast glossary. I described eBay as a self-contained universe of data and meta-data, where countless images are governed by the ratio of visibility. Here, the connection with astronomy rescued me from the deep abyss of commodification and instead launched me into the exploration of space curation. Alongside the curatorial statement, I created an exhibition leaflet, which was produced solely by using the headings of the emails I had been receiving from eBay over the years. If I wanted to truly engage with the eBay universe, surely I had to start by speaking its own language—one that is humorous, intimate and reflexive of consumers’ behaviours. Not surprisingly, the quantity and quality of my correspondences with the platform has magnified since I embarked on the project, culminating on the 25th of April 2017 with an unsurpassable headline: “You are always on our mind Gaia.”

Because of my interest in exploring the value of curation on the platform, Marialaura and Rebekah invited me to produce an auction myself, which I saw as an opportunity to sell the curatorial expertise I had accumulated on eBay and become more ‘intimate’ with Cassini algorithm. With the support of the visually rich imageries associated with Cassini available from the NASA website, I drew together the languages of astronomy, search optimisation and curation. Thus I chose to sell a bespoke curatorial consultancy in partnership with Cassini for the bargain price of $15. I placed my auction, titled Curatorial Consultancy with Cassini on #exstrange, in the category “Specialty Services > eBay Auction Services > Appraisal &
Authentication”. This category of service only exists in the US website so I had to sign a special international agreement since my account is UK-based. My service mixed human and algorithmic curation. It was reliable, efficient and creative. Being immaterial, web-based and buyer-specific, it aimed at increasing the latter’s visibility within eBay universe of ‘Happy Transactions.’ Although available to all eBay users, the consultancy was particularly fitting for artists interested in exploring the currency of their name and work on the platform. My auction offered an online report, the co-creation with Cassini of an eBay collection tailored on the buyer’s listings and tastes, and a special mention during a public event entitled Posthuman curating: curating authenticity or the question of content online held at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, UK. On this occasion, I announced that my service had been purchased, warmly congratulating user Afaja, the buyer of my auction, for his winning offer.

As a result of my consultancy, user Afaja, who turned out to be the artist Alessandro Sambini, produced the successful listing entitled Portable Wildlife Image Instance, since it immediately appeared at the top of the eBay search. I suspect this was due to its original title, witty description and high quality photographs—three key features that Cassini is known to reward. The auction inventively played with the tropes of contemporary landscape photography and Dada ready-made. It sold an “image instance” in the form of half of a shopping bag of the multinational retailer Tesco. Sambini adopted the term “instance” from the software Adobe Flash to refer to an image that has been manipulated and thus differs from the original although remaining closely connected to it. A ‘Bugiardino’ (i.e. an index invoking, as per name and design, the fact sheet inside Italian drugs) accompanied the half-bag, tracing the genealogy of other instances of the same image. After fierce competition and thirty-two different bids, Portable Wildlife Image Instance was bought by user Temporama at the price of $44.00, for an increased market value of 40.5%. User Afaja greatly appreciated the bespoke online collection I co-created with Cassini, which explored the potential of the listing to be curated into a collection of sellable items. Being impressed with Cassini’s ability to capture his eclectic interests and hidden desires, Afaja compared the algorithm to Santa Claus in a conversation with me: “Mr. Cassini, you are better than Santa, next December I am going to ask you: what do I want for Christmas?” However, not all the items in the collection I co-created with Cassini were available in Afaja’s location–Italy, perhaps revealing some cyclical planetary misalignments that Cassini needs fixing. In fact, similar problems occurred before; for instance, when I sent a link to a test collection to Marialaura, who is based in Bangalore, India, and accessed it through eBay India. This was a crude realitycheck about the invisible side of the eBay Universe of global online transactions: the custom restrictions and
bans that block the free circulation of material goods between countries. Crucially, it was also a reminder of the falsity of the old myth cyberspace shares with outer space, that of being an environment which belongs to the whole of humanity, beyond national appropriation and control.

Cassini, as NASA observed, “is a mission of firsts,” which, over time, has continued to surprise its planners with astounding observations, irrevocably changing ways of thinking about the universe.4 Within the operation mobilised by #exstrange, no other ‘mission’ has explored the mysterious synergies of human and algorithmic curation so close. This might at first appear peculiar, considering the wealth of contributors involved in the project and its experimental ambition. However, I deem this as revealing the art world’s diffused resistance towards imaginative forms of engagement with the commodification (and consequent demystification) of the curatorial function online. As my first collaboration with Cassini, the ‘Commodities Chief Curator,’ comes to an end, it leaves behind a rich visual imagery, documented interactions and some preliminary reflections on the value of curation on the platform and beyond. When artists and curators collaborate under the supervision of an ‘intelligent’ algorithm, roles are bound to hybridise and new magnetic fields are mapped. Reflexive methods might emerge whilst the machinic performances of online platforms are scrutinised from the inside. Hence, curation can be seen as an opportunity for daring discoveries, as it produces “disruptive innovation,” engages in “diversification,” and forms “strategic alliances.” [5] These are the kind of alliances that are needed today, as a new generation of algorithms mutate from being explorers to invaders. They are pioneered by Google, which after having appropriated all terrestrial forms of cultural value is swiftly moving into the colonisation of space curation too.


[1] Lewis, E. The eBay phenomenon: the story of a brand that taught millions of strangers to trust one another. London: Marshall Cavendish Business, 2008, 7.
[2] Dudovskiy, J. eBay SWOT Analysis. 2016.
[3] Alexander, T. eBay: Understanding eBay Search with Todd Alexander. 2013.
[4] Green, J. Cassini First Dive Video Transcript. April 26, 2017. 2017.
[5] Dudovskiy.

This text was written for the book #exstrange: A Curatorial Intervention on eBay (2017) published Maize Books, an imprint of Michigan Publishing, pp.180-185.
All rights reserved.

Renee Carmichael

▹. Setting the Stage

“When it’s on your mind, it’s on eBay” [1]. Or is eBay on your mind? When writing this, a rhythm of a song popped into my head, but I can’t quite remember the lyrics to go along with the vague notations bouncing from clarity to obscurity in on and off beats respectively. I move slightly to the tune anyway, but my performance is interrupted by an email from eBay (literally, I couldn’t make it up if I tried). It says “Congrats on your first purchase.” I entered into the dance piece, On My Miiind, through my desire to dance to the rhythm of a song that is completely my own internal choreography, to force external dance partners (in this case eBay) to follow my lead, and to occupy an altogether different stage—the stage of capitalism. But before I move again to discuss what is On My Miiind, what exactly is this stage and how am I performer here anyway?
In a social media saturated world, the stage becomes an omnipresent platform consisting of notify, notify, notify—capitalism and a well-mixed consistency of power flows. So well mixed, we can’t even see spec(k)s [2] from our birds-eye view, limbs gliding easily from corner to corner of the enigmatic surface of the platform but to no avail. We may recognise eBay for what it is, but can we really see the details lurking behind? Nearsightedness or not, however, the surface looks right back at us and becomes the audience to our life as performer: “Paolo Virno…has argued that post-Fordism turns us all into virtuoso performers, since the basis of labour is no longer the production of a commodity as end-product (as it was on the Fordist production line), but is now a communicational act, designed for an audience.” [3] So I am a performer, whether I acknowledge it or not, as I am communicating constantly with eBay. I am moving through the online eBay pages, and each movement is part of my performance in capitalism. But as I am entertained by the various stages, are they also being entertained by me? Who is actually viewing whom? Is my body as performer or the surface as eBay stage absorbing the shock of the movement of the performance? How did I learn the moves anyway? “Is my mind on eBay or is eBay on my mind?” says my mind swaying slightly…
On, off, on off—the On My Miiind earworm just doesn’t want to leave my head. I may be a performer who can follow the rules of platforms such as eBay, but surely I can also dance freely to my own on-off tune? I can choose to search eBay before logging in. Next time I open eBay I can log in first. I can scroll as fast or as slow as I want. I can move chaotically from page to page, item to item, or follow some sort of meticulous pattern. I am searching for what I want to buy on eBay. I am in control and I am making all the decisions through my own choreography of movements. These are my dreams and my desires—what I would call my On My Miiind dance. It is my internal will being danced and externalised on eBay. It is my mind that dances to its own rhythm, and my dance partner eBay needs to listen and follow my every move. I am more than a performer of a set choreography: I am a freely moving dancer.
Or am I? Does eBay dance my dance or am I merely performing what eBay has already laid out on the stage? Is my mind already filled with the eBay choreographic rules before I even lift a single finger to scroll? Do I dance to the tune of On My Miiind or perform the rules of My Mind On eBay? If I perform to My Mind On eBay, my internal thoughts are actually the external will of what eBay wants me to desire internalised. I am performing eBay as it wants to be performed, and eBay’s dictating choreography takes the lead. Does the design of eBay choreograph my movements? Do I feel like I am in control because eBay wants me to feel this way? Who is taking the lead, eBay or myself as dancer?
Whichever way I find myself on eBay, I am performing. The question then becomes, how free am I to improvise what is On My Miiiind? There is only one way to find out: I will strive to not just perform, but to dance, on eBay.


▹. Programme

∃. Performance concept: the conversation between On My Miiind and My Mind On eBay
The On My Miiind dance is a performance that attempts to see if I can really dance freely on eBay or if I am only able to perform the rules that eBay has set out for me. It is a dance of the communication between On My Miiind and My Mind On eBay—on to the off, dancing to performing—a performance in-between tunes. The performance entails going through the motions of buying an item on eBay based on my own desires, decisions and movements—a choreography of my free will on the eBay stage. Throughout the dance, the chemistry between my free movement and the choreographic rules of eBay, or the ability to mix them together, is an important theme of the performance. To the tune of a blinking cursor, I type “chemistry” into the search bar, and it becomes what I, as dancer, desire to search for and eventually buy on eBay—the motif of the dance.
The performance can be broken up into different phrases, or choreographic fragments that relate to their own patterns, rhythms and actions and are unique compared to the others. Phrase 1 is the search fragment and explores the rhythms of searching and scrutinising items in the search results page for “chemistry.” Phrase 2 is the rhythm of making a decision and deciding what to buy. And finally, phrase 3 is the buying process, filling in forms, adding credit card details and finally ending in the grand finale of a successfully bought chemistry item—applause and bow. In each of these phrases there is a clear change in the rhythm of the performance and in my own body, and these changes are key to the conversation between On My Miiind and My Mind On eBay.
Through struggles of body, will, power, movement and frustration, the performance is a testimony to the subjectivity of a user attempting to take the lead alongside their dancing partner of a multinational corporation.

∃. Performance Context: Movement Online
I started this performance with questions rather than answers. The performance brings together notions of the idea that movement is an important part of communication [4] and stems from my larger research into dance, code and performance online. [5] But if movement is part of exchange, and we are doing the exchange online where we hardly move, what does this mean for capitalism? What happens when we suddenly become aware of our training as performers? Can our movements actually be freeing and outside of the power of eBay as platform?
In order to answer these questions, I needed to be able to not just dance, but to also analyse my movements. To do so, I used techniques inspired from Laban Movement Analysis (LMA). LMA was started by Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) as a method for observing, describing and interpreting human movement. It positions us humans as active agents: “At the heart of LMA is a recognition that movement is a psycho-physical process, an outward expression of inner intent.” [6] Perfect, can I let free my inner boogie on eBay?
LMA is divided into five main categories: body, effort, shape, phrasing and space. I decided to focus on four of these and to exclude space for now. According to LMA, Effort is the type of moves I would do (scrolling, clicking, etc.) and how they could be described (flow, weight, time and space). Shape is about process and can be seen as a type of bridge between my body and screen. Directions (vertical, horizontal, sagittal) are important here as well as the flow (self motivated, environment motivated, or a co-carving of both). My body also becomes part of the analysis in LMA. It is the tool to understand the movements being analysed as systems. Here narratives are taken into account (buying something on eBay) and divisions of the body as well (breath, core-distal, head-tail, upper-lower, body-half, cross-lateral). And finally, we come to what I mentioned before: phrasing. Phrasing is the link to tie it all together, a sequence of movements that have a beginning and an end and can be traced through one single line of motion. I quickly learned that phrasing wasn’t at the tail-end but the core of it all. Each step contained many phrases, and each phrase created a sort of habitual action of my body to the rhythm of eBay. Within each phrase is a mix of the different elements found in body, shape and effort, and together we find a whole performance where I become a star and this text the acclamation of my labour. But does this star verily dance?


Fig:1 A summary of the different steps (counts) it took to search for and decide which item to on eBay and their analyses based on LMA. For each count, you can find what phrase (either 1 or 2) it belongs too and a short summary of how body, effort and shape were noted down during the process.]


Fig:2 A summary of the different steps (counts) it took to complete the buying process on eBay and their analyses based on LMA. Each count is related to phrase 3 and has a short summary of how body, effort and shape were noted down during the process.]


▹. Performers

∃. Performer 1: eBay
It takes two to tango and the first dance performer is the multinational corporation of eBay. I won’t describe here its bodily characteristics or styles as a dancer. The point is, you know them. Whether you have ever typed from muscle memory e-b-a-y in your browser search bar or it is your first visit, eBay moves in a familiar way. Its dance style is common, standardised and often, inflexible. As such, it is easy to follow eBay’s moves.

∃. Performer 2: User (Me)
The second dancer is the general website user, or in this case, me. The word “platform” is defined as both a raised surface on which people or things stand and a place for expressing your own point of view. I come to eBay trying to do just that: express my unique dance style that comes from On My Miiind within the raised surface of eBay. For this, I bring my own biases of wanting to critically analyse eBay’s design in regards to my own movement. And I am also coming creatively, as a participant in the project #exstrange, a platform itself that appropriates another platform (the set designer of my performance?). But regardless of what my unique body brings, my style has to manifest itself, like any user’s would, as one of struggle. I must communicate my moves well enough so that my inflexible dance partner eBay is able to interpret them and dance alongside me. My subjectivity must not only be strong, but clear, so that I can force eBay to move my way. And here is where the notion of chemistry also appears. According to Deleuze, our subjectivity is an extraction and separation of various (chemical) entities that then create new harmonies and rhythms. [7] To be able to take the lead in the dance and exert my subjectivity, I first must extract and display my own unique moves. The struggle then is in getting eBay to follow. The chemistry between us is possible; we can move together as I can easily perform the standardised choreography of eBay, but am I able to create a chemistry with my own subjective dance styles? Can I separate the array of substances to get to the poetics of my own subjective moves and still be able to perform with eBay?


▹. Phrases

∃. Phrase One: Searching for chemistry
I could probably describe in more detail the process of searching on eBay step by step, but it is a whole lot more complicated than the rhythm of an essay allows. It is obscured in the on off beats of On My Miiind and of my moving body—try it out for yourself. What is important here is that, during my search for a chemistry item to buy on eBay, and based on my analysis of body, effort and shape, I found that in all of the three phrases, or clear changes in the way my body moved, this phrase of searching is the most relevant to the questions of my subjectivity as dancer. Phrase one I hereby deem The Free Flowing A-sync Beat Assertion Scroll (ridiculous name intended).
I’ll start with an analysis of the body. My body is making up my own site map of the site. I scrolled and checked out the search items to my own rhythm, pausing when I wanted and going as fast or slow as I wanted. My scrolling hand and eyes were free to move asynchronously with each other and with the page. My body posture was grounded and relaxed, yet my presence was clear and strong. I even leaned in closer to the screen, head on hand on knee—I’m here, and I’m looking for what’s on my mind. I was going with the flow of my own intentions. Or so I thought.
Hello eBay my false partner…are you putting a spell on me? I was free to move but my partner was still there. The search bar at the top drew my attention. I was encouraged to find my own site map and ignore eBay’s. I was free to scroll and jump around as I wished, but the pattern of the design drew my focus to the photos on the left. I felt relaxed and free, but eBay had me right where it wanted: “…labor itself is now play, just as play becomes more and more laborious. Or consider the model of the market, in which the invisible hand of play intervenes to assess and resolve all contradiction, and is thought to model all phenomena, from energy futures markets, to the ‘market’ of representational democracy, to haggling over pollution credits, to auctions of the electromagnetic spectrum, to all manner of supercharged speculation in the art world. Play is the thing that overcomes systemic contradiction but always via recourse to that special, ineffable thing that makes us most human.” [8] I was an engaged human going with eBay’s flow disguised as my own.
There was no need to become aware of my habits, which would allow me to rupture into a dancing body instead of a performing one, [9] since I was tricked that I was doing just that. My effort also served the eBay game at play. I wring: light and flexible movement on the page (outside), strong and forceful body presence (inside). I was de-skilled in my ability to assert my rhythms freely, and I let down my guard to eBay. Why? Because I was on eBay’s time: “The practical rationale for de-skilling today seems to be the accommodation of performance to exhibition time: the need for a low-waged body to be continually present in the space…” [10] Replace exhibition time for eBay Official Time (a real concept that exists and is the timeframe for each auction closing and opening) [11] and you will see the value of my efforts.
Scrolling, looking at the images on the left—humming my own tune. Clicking and opening. Going back to the search results, and a sudden appearance of some eBay columns on the right gives some constraint to my play and reminds me that eBay, my partner, is there to help—“When we learn to expect playfulness from mundane tasks like ordering food or finding a pharmacy, or when we won’t go swimming without a Pokéchaperone, the result is a state of unsuspecting childlikeness, while adults wait in the woods to take their profits.” [12]—take my money; I’m a child playing in your garden. “But I’m buying the toys I want” says my mind as I lean forward, head on hand on knee presence.
With my intentions alongside eBay as babysitter, it all starts to take shape. I am allowed to be asynchronous as long as the more complex advancing and retreating movement of page (space) changes and the right column suggestions fades are handled by eBay. But even during this analysis, my body posture and rhythms are creatures of habit. I cannot seem to escape them no matter how hard I try: “…the membership of the family do not call what they are doing a ritual, or do not recognise the orderly nature of the verbal interaction as regulated…” [13] Is eBay preying on just that in its choice of classic design template? We may never know, but regardless, eBay is about selling and buying and money money money—efficiency in the cloak of community: “Society is that way in which behaviour is calibrated so that existence is not a process of continuous and wasteful trial and error.” [14] I can only be kept on a leash long enough to fail limbs in fresh air but short enough to be reeled in, or, break a leg, off beat flailing bye bye goes the nicely designed system on stage.

∃. Phrase Two: Making a decision
With each wring that I do, I communicate with eBay, and in turn, it communicates with me. Even if I appear to be On My Miiiind, I can’t escape the feedback loop. Eventually I must decide which item that I want to buy from the search result pages for “chemistry.” This little phrase I like to call the In-between Shuffle.
At the moment when I say the most “I am the dancer. I am not the performer.” and choose what chemistry item to buy, ironically my body changes pose to something a bit in-between my previous strong presence and a submissive performer ready to act. I sit up, tall but at a diagonal, always waiting for the contra move. My efforts are strong and forceful, point and click to change rhythm, but my posture is hesitant and waiting, ready at every blink of the cursor. Does eBay actually understand my free-flowing move and dance along? The answer: no, of course not, eBay only speaks in the strict steps of data tongues and not in free flowing limbs. It is only what happens after the click of the “Buy Now” button, when I actually establish my identity, form filling, passwords and usernames, that it gets me: “But the naked or “free” worker of capitalism takes subjection to its most radical expression since the processes of subjectification no longer even enter into partial conjunctions that interrupt flow.”[15] Regardless, we still flow. But do I get it?
I sometimes reflect back to phrase one, free flowing and examining the item closely in my own rhythm, but the shape is more static, the vertical of my hand scroll and the horizontal of my eyes moving in unison—the page moves more than me. When I muscle memory type my search term “chemistry,” a box appears below with suggestions. I escape. Moving the mouse chaotically, swerving to the search button. Click. I win the game. But the static creeps into my flow and as my in-between body posture shows, I am somewhat defeated anyway. I built my subjectivity in phrase one. My On My Miiind determining rhythm of decision-making is exactly where eBay wants me, fighting internally with my own internal ability to dance freely on eBay: “We might say that these virtual centres of power are our own subjectivities, and thus that the battle ground against this power is in some sense ourselves.” [16] I’m not fighting eBay for the power to dance, I’m fighting myself instead. It’s the age-old tale of bottom line selling [17], it’s just that I’ve done all the labour for them from the habitual free flow of my muscle memory finger scrolls.

∃. Phrase Three: Buying process
The item I had decided to buy in phrase two is a miniature chemistry beaker being sent all the way from China. It’s as small as the palm of the hand and as cute as my Miiiind wants it to be. There is no option for bidding, decisions must be as strong and present as my body in the beginning. I click “Buy It Now.” The real (as in eBay’s data speak) rhythm of communicating streams of subjectivity begins. I label this phrase the Suspense of the Buy Scurry.
My body is more chaotic than strong. It jumps to life. Shifting back and forth—will the form accept my details? Another error. I must find my credit card. What are my login details? I forgot my password. I have to open my email. I have to leave the screen to get my card—actually use my legs. I’m never quite sure that it will work. My breath is changing. Sigh of relief. Holding while loading. Swishing of searching. I live in fear of the error, of not being able to move forward, while I ironically move any way I wish in front of my screen: “…we might argue that the predominant production of subjectivity today is based on fear.” [18] eBay has me hooked as I must complete the buy to create peace for that vague rhythm On My Miiind. I made my decision, and my subjectivity scurries to catch up. I call it my chaotic moving without thinking dance, and I am rupturing outside to get back inside. I finally have my own chemistry (of subjectivity), but the outside is now my mind and the inside my eBay account: “We might also think about the use of music to create a territory…A simpler example is bird song, understood as a territorialising refrain, producing a kind of home—and thus a kind of ‘subjectivity’ —for the bird.” [19] I can flap my legs in frustration around the room all I want, but maybe, eBay, partner, you’re holding on just a bit too tight?
The territory of eBay must be internalised if I am to move forward. I forgot to put my phone number. Red error. Stuck on the same page as I freely pace outside in my room. In terms of shape, I can no longer scroll. The rhythm of the page is horizontal centre, symbolic of the core of my body that is now inside eBay through the tongue of passwords and usernames. I continually must use effort—strong, with the typing, clicking, formatting of the habits of filling out forms. Flow is often put to a bodily freeze of page—error. On My Miiiind is still moving forward but now only as the rhythm of the sound of my footprints in the space—outside. The inside is stuck in the pickiness of the eBay tongue. Ironically when my body is moving the most to its own tune, I am controlled even more. In this phrase, I am no longer dancing but performing the My Mind On eBay rhythm of advancing and retreating to success (you still always seem to have force there, eBay, my partner).
But I can still use my legs, can’t I? I am sure that the next time I pay, my dance will be different. Could I consider this a success of free improvisation in its own right? But alas no, tricking us again, eBay old partner. It is merely the suspense that keeps drawing me back in, all for the sake of the efficiency of forward progression and the determination of moving full circle. My contra tempo stirs something inside of me. We feel the beauty of the (mis-communication) glitch: “Nervousness shows us they are here. We do not like to be made nervous because nervousness is a desire to get to a different speed, to correct the discrepancies we feel between our experiences of the world. It reminds us that we are functioning in difference. It maintains relation despite discomfort and forces an acknowledgement that we are out of sync, operating in inequity.” [20] Somewhere, deep down, my mind always had a mind of its own, no matter the designed demands and tricks of the eBay stage. I was desiring a primal moment to miscommunicate, to break the flow, to fight back, to assert myself—to ground myself in the subjectivity of a half remembered password tune beating on to the off and off to the on for a climatic finale of wow for the ever present audience. But in the end, who do I trust? Is it my eBay power to buy, or myself dancing in the corner? I hate to be the one who turns the music off in the morning hours of a party, but it is irrelevant again: eBay is on my mind and my mind is on eBay, no matter which way I move, I can’t define myself without the other while performing on the eBay stage.
The beauty of a glitch keeps us there again and again. The need to communicate our subjectivity, indeed the desire to, is the key to the On My Miiind limits. The error (glitch) reassures us we are still there—in-between—right in the open arms of the dance partner eBay, the cerebrum of the beast. And so I must trust the system because I have no other option and I don’t know any other way. I came here with my own biases, I clearly wanted to be critical, but I quickly realised the game was bigger than that. I couldn’t help my leaning forward head on hand on knee no matter how much I was aware—autotune. On My Miiiind leaves a bitter taste in the gaps between known lyrics. So can we never really be free anyway?


▹. Cool Down: Conclusion
After all of that, the On My Miiind rhythm seems a bit depressing. The chemistry of my subjectivity bounces back into a single liquid. Even the lyrics that I did remember have faded into the obscure mixture. Body, effort and shape come to the deafening presence of stillness. But still, and still or not, we can’t help but dance slightly anyway. And as the word ‘habit’ originally comes from the meaning of dress or attire, could simply becoming aware been seen as a sort of rupture that begins a new rhythm, that puts on a new adornment of key that takes us to the bridge?
We may never have the (eye) power strength to see the spec(k)s on the stage. But no matter which way we look, movement follows and we always leave a trail of our communication to be absorbed by the power waves of capitalism and its ever performing subjects. There might be one small dance of hope left. What if the key to the freedom of improvisation is not in a duality of internal, On My Miiiind, and external, My Mind On eBay, (or vice versa in The Suspense of Buy Scurry) but in the conversation between the two? It is not so much about seeing but about listening to the rhythms that pull us from one obscure beat to the other. Platforms like #exstrange, and art in general, can be argued to help facilitate these new conversations. But in the two day rhythm of writing this essay, I have (literally) received three other eBay emails—notify, notify, notify, this time let’s just not leave all the talking to the off beats. What do your On Your Miiiind beats notify to the rhythm flow?
We end both the performance and this analysis with a new question and a new conversation piece. And as questions lead to more questions in order to keep a conversation alive, the only way we have to move forward is to keep dancing in new phrases, no matter what off beat we find our body needing to perform to next. The game is on. Let’s notify them we aren’t going to skip a beat.


[1] eBay Inc. Staff, “eBay Unveils “When it’s on your mind, it’s on eBay” Advertising Campaign”, 14 Sep. 2001, eBay, accessed 13 Apr. 2017.
[2] “Spec(k)s” is my own play on words. It is a combination of “specks”, as in small spots or particles and “specs”, as in a particular specification. It also plays of its second meaning, related to the notion of vision here, of being a shortened form of spectacles (eye glasses).
[3] Bishop, Claire. Black Box, White Cube, Public Space, Accessed 13 April 2017.
[4] Birdwhistell, Ray. Kinesics and Context: Essays on Body Motion Communication (Conduct and Communication). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970.
[5] See:,,
[6] Konie, Robin. A Brief Overview of Laban Movement Analysis. 2011. Accessed 13 April 2017.
[7] Guattari quoted in O’Sullivan, Simon. Academy: ‘The Production of Subjectivity’. Accessed 13 April 2017. Pp. 6.
[8] Galloway, Alexander R. The Interface Effect. Polity Press, 2012. Pp 29.
[9] O’Sullivan. Pp 5.
[10] Bishop.
[12] Barron, Jesse. “The Babysitters Club”. Real Life Mag, 27 July 2016. Acessed 13 April 2017.
[13] Birdwhistall, Pp 57.
[14] Birdwhistell, Pp 74.
[15] Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. A Thousand Plateaus. University of Minnesota Press, 1987. Pp 457.
[16] O’Sullivan. Pp 1.
[18] O’Sullivan, Pp 5.
[19] O’Sullivan, Pp 6.
[20] Dunlop, Jane Frances. “Nervous? We Should Be.” Real Life Mag. 19 July 2016. Accessed 13 April 2017.