Noah Marlowe ︎︎︎


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Haikus – 3,5,3 / 5,7,5: 2022 – Present

Chilling mists
A clap of thunder 
Produce Aisle

A light touch
Breathing in heartbrake
Time and space

Creasent moon
Broken piece of pie
Taste of grief

Children’s toy
Whistles in the breeze
Broken hearts

A blury shadow 
Escaping from the sun’s gaze
Stars shine at daylight

Green jacket 
Golden retriever

A hug that blinds me
Creation of my shadow 
Always from the past

Ass in baggy jeans
Does confidence have a name?
When dancing alone

The stars are hidden
Unnatural luminescence 
Losing to night’s veil

Sexual tension
Sitting under the moonlight
Once in a blue moon

A cheers to sunday
Or has it been a fun day?
Nowhere near the bay

Lost lover 
Piece of the puzzle
Sandy beach

Remote Work: Poem – 2023

Eavesdropping conversations

old friends laugh uncontrollably

maybe they were once lovers

a memorization of memories

Invested in lives I do not know

private conversation is my podcast

pretending to work

cosplaying productivity

Symphonies of



and unnecessarily loud space bar taps.


My heart thumps

Do they know?

My AirPods are dead

they’re entirely for show.

Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear: Poem – 2023 

Cars on the highway. 

Truckers, road-trippers and business comuters.

Exits and onramps. The game of life.

Look out the passenger window and look at someone you’ll never know.

All they’ll ever be is the Dodge Caravan who went to slow.

Their life condensed to a make and model.

A spaceship going 70 in a 65.

For an instance, two ships share the same orbit.

An astrological anomaly. 

Carbon beings incased in carbon fiber, their desitnations unknown.

Expository Statement: 2021

The word “meme” is a relatively new and pungent word within our contemporary vocabularies. Coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976, in an effort to describe the transmission of culture and cultural genes throughout society, the meme has become a visual tool that is both easily accessible and easily produced. Its images penetrate and evolve within and amongst culture as images are shared, downloaded, edited, resaved, and re-uploaded. This process of cultural evolution through the sharing of images can be observed in real time. Online forums and social media have become both a playground of creation and a mode of transportation for these cultural commodities. Within these online platforms, these images fight for our attention within an economy of engagement, were the most liked, shared, and retweeted images are representational of contemporary and pop culture.

These images exist themselves within their own unique medium and genetic makeup. JPEGs, the filetype that houses and stores the majority of the image content that we engage with, is also a fairly new term within our contemporary society. An acronym for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”, the filetype was created in 1992 by a group known under the same name. Capable of storing over 16 million colors, JPEGs have the ability to store and display our images in beautiful high-resolution that can be saved and shared with a click or tap of a finger. They are, however, innately ephemeral. Their lossy compression makes it so that with every new saved copy, the original image begins to break over time. Through this progression, the image’s genetic data is lost, and the computer forgets how to rebuild the image in its perfect entirety.

As these JPEG images are processed and passed around throughout digital interfaces, as modes of cultural transmission, their destruction becomes increasingly evident. They become memes and poor images.

Exchange of Engagements: 2021

Instagram users have five primary social and psychological motives:
social interaction, archive, self-expression, escapism, and peeking [1]

The first thing I do when I wake up is look at my phone. Often times I don’t even have to roll over to reach for it on the nightstand because it’s already in bed, laying down next to me. I’m simultaneously turning off my phone’s morning alarm with my index finger while I’m checking the lock screen for notifications with my thumb. My eyes finally adjust to the screen’s bright blue light, my mind’s hazy morning fog begins to diminish, and my ear’s hypersensitivity for morning alarms fades. At this time, I begin my daily ritual of opening Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter. Much like a morning newspaper, I often times never know what pre-generated content I expect to find when I open these apps. The majority of the time the content is garbage or is something I’ve already seen before, but nonetheless I’ve opened the app anyway like I always do. Much like gambling, those randomized chances for gems or jackpots keeps me spinning on a never-ending cycle of closing and opening these apps throughout my day. With each relaunch, these endless content feeds present something new for me to digest. My voluntary engagement with this medium plays a democratized and consumerist role in the assessment of worth and value of visual media as a marketed commodity.

I believe we need to have an active awareness and open discourse on how we process, engage, and perceive the world around us through the influences of social media and the internet. The roles of the artist, designer, comedian, and philosopher may be some of the best suited to tackle this task of inspiring and prompting open discourse on the underlying or protentional issues and benefits of social media and digital technology as a whole. Art and design in particular can be used to visually reveal and mirror our shared societal, social, technological, and overall human experiences in the hopes of a better understanding of our shared world. As an aspiring artist and designer, I wanted to try my hand at using art and design as a tool for unraveling and understanding the technology and media I use and interact with every day. I didn’t want to make a project that preaches to the choir on why social media is bad for us or why we shouldn’t use it. I don’t want the purpose of my project to be one big gotcha moment where I attempt to reveal something that we all already know, but rather I wanted to make a project and preform a process that simply explores the medium of online social networking as a whole. If I’m going to continue using and engaging with these apps, then I feel I should learn what role I, and the billions of others have in the economy of social media. I believe the foundations of social media have implications on the value of engagement in context to our understanding of the spectacle of media, commodity, and value, as well as our perceptions of the individual’s active or protentional role in citizen lead curation and democracy.

Engagement is Currency

Just about every social media platform has some level of exchange of engagement between the content maker and the content viewer. Whether it be Likes or Dislikes or Upvotes and Downvotes, the medium provides the user with tools they can use to express their engagement with the given content on screen. These acts of engagement are quantitative and, in some regards, in limited supply. For the purpose of this project and research, I’ll primarily be interacting with the engagement ecosystem of Instagram. On Instagram, each user is only allowed one opportunity to like a given image. No image can receive two or more likes from any one individual, provided alternative and bot accounts aren’t being utilized. This limited supply of engagement by the viewer gives the inherent incentive to the content creator to create content that will garner as much engagement and attention as possible. The more likes a post receives, the more successful or valuable that post becomes. The content creator is rewarded through this exchange of engagement by both phycological means and the app’s infrastructural algorithm. The greater the Like count, the greater the self-esteem boost to the individual as well as greater the public visibility given the content creator’s account by the platform’s algorithm.

I can’t help but see this exchange of virtual engagement as a form of virtual currency. The number of Likes given to an image on Instagram equates to our perceived value of that image. Marshall McLuhan wrote that, “The nonliterate man can accept any staple as money, partly because the staples of a community are as much media of communication as they are commodities” [2] In 2019, a stock image of an egg was posted on Instagram by the user @world_record_egg. The image garnered huge notoriety throughout the community and achieved its self-prescribed goal of becoming the most liked image on the entire platform with a total number of 55,021,305 Likes. [3] If we are to believe that the exchange of engagement through the platform’s given tools of Likes can be understood as a form of currency, then this image of an egg must be interpreted as a commodity. This brings to question our perception of value in relation to object and image. Based purely on the conventions of the platform and the rules of exchange of engagement, this image of an egg should be the most valuable item in the app’s ecosystem, but is it truly? The labour required in creating or sourcing a stock photo of an egg and posting it on the platform is not bound by skill. Any user can and could’ve easily done the exact same thing as the user @world_record_egg. And if done so, would that recreation be inherently less valuable than the original if the content is practically identical? If the value of an image is not entirely bound by skill or labour, then the value can then be understood as being given and defined by the public through means democratization and citizen curation.

Engagement is Democracy

The internet’s birthing of social media platforms has given us a unique and unprecedented opportunity for communal and global democracy. Money and currency can be equated with the power of voting. We vote for a product or company’s value through our exchange of currency with that entity. By purchasing a commodity, we are voting that the product is worth the value it’s given. By boycotting a company or product, our withdrawal of the exchange of currency is a vote against the said worth of that commodity. Within the framework of Instagram and social media, our chosen engagement with imagery is a vote for the value of that image, and our withdrawal of engagement is a vote against.

Artist and author Hito Steyerl makes known the existence of the “poor image” in our modern digital landscape. Steyerl originally defined poor images as images made possible by digital technology’s ability for common creation, distortion, and mass redistribution. Hito argued that poor images were made in opposition to commercialized and state sponsored cultural artifacts, and “are not assigned any value within the class society of images.” [4] The poor image can be seen as counter cultural artifacts meant to question the implications of inherent class structure and privatization. The best examples of such imagery today would be the process of deconstruction, pirating, and redistribution of institutionalized made imagery into the cultural format of memes and visual collage. The poor image was made by the common man for the common man, but under the framework of currency and commercialization inherently built within social media platforms such as Instagram through the exchange of engagement, the distribution of the poor image has been altered. The poor image under the frameworks of currency and democratization through the process of Likes and votes under social media has made it so that these images compete for attention, engagement, and value in the same ways in which privatized and institutional commodities compete for value through the democratization of one’s own wallet. This implies that counter cultural artifacts which receive more Likes and engagement are valued greater socially than counter cultural artifacts that receive less.

Much like @world_record_egg’s famous distribution of the egg image, the labour or lack thereof involved in the creation of poor imagery does not always play a role in the perceived value of that image or object, but rather relies upon the public’s vetting of image value through democracy and engagement. But what makes these images particularly engaging when they are not valued by labour made by the creator or the usefulness of the image or object? Maybe it’s just be due to pure entertainment and or the thrill of cultural phenomenon but could also be attributed to the cultural fetishization of imagery and commodity.

Engagement as Commodity

“The fetishism of the commodity — the domination of society by “intangible as well as tangible things” — attains its ultimate fulfillment in the spectacle, where the real world is replaced by a selection of images which are projected above it, yet which at the same time succeed in making themselves regarded as the epitome of reality.” – Guy Debord [5]

The democratization and public curation of imagery on social media frameworks such as Instagram have created a platform in which users use the framework of engagement to express their notions of individuality. Much like the process of tattooing imagery onto the body to express one’s own interests and notions unique individuality, the ability to post and redistribute content and imagery onto one’s personal and public social media accounts is an act of public individual expressionism. However, the exchange of engagement framework present in social media give rise to the dilemma of public validation. We know now that the image content of social media is a commodity and the framework of social media encourages users to take part in the currency of engagement by posting content that will be valued highly by the community through the process of exchanging votes through Likes. Through this democratized process of engagement, one’s own individuality may be valued higher by the community than the individual of another. The lesser valued user is then encouraged by the platform’s economy of engagement to post and redistribute imagery that is valued greater by the curated image trends of the community in the hopes that their content will be valued greater.

The content that is valued the greatest by the community can then be fetishized, leading to the belief that those highly valued images are the epitome of individuality and reality. Those fetishized images or commodities may have originated as poor image or as a product of institutional privatization, but regardless are seen as the status quo through user engagement. The monopolization of these images can take place through the marketing of engagement, creating larger and larger gaps that lesser known or non-status quo imagery have to jump in order to gain value within the ecosystem. The user’s individuality through this exchange of engagement mimics the processes of capitalism, where the desire for greater perceived value and social wealth is prioritized under the spectacle and economy of social media.

In Conclusion

Through the process of the exchange of engagement provided and encouraged by the social media platforms of today, the user is constantly confronted with notions of value through individual and community engagement. The value of the content we view, and the value of the individual them self is under constant assessment. The billions of social media users and myself included, play a central role in defining the value of the content we create and redistribute through our active participation. I believe the platform’s inherent framework for public curation and democracy provide unique opportunities for questioning our perception of image, commodity, and individual value. If the idea that the medium of Instagram and social media is a form of democracy is true, then I believe that artist and designer’s role within those platforms should be to use the medium’s provided tools of engagement to prompt and make users aware of the power of their active engagement, and how the economy of image content shifts our perception and discourse of reality, the spectacle, and the commercialized world around us. 


  • Kang, Chen. “Art in the Age of Social Media: Interaction Behavior Analysis of Instagram Art Accounts.” Informatics (Basel) 6, no. 4 (December 7, 2019): 52–.

  • McLuhan, Marshall. “Money: The Poor Man's Credit Card.” Essay. In Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man. London: Abacus, 1973.

  • @world_record_egg. Profile. Instagram. January 4, 2019.

  • Steyerl, Hito, and Franco Berardi. “In Defense of the Poor Image.” Essay. In Hito Steyerl: the Wretched of the Screen. Berlin, Germany: Sternberg Press, 2012.

  • Debord, Guy. “Chapter 2: The Commodity as Spectacle.” Essay. In Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black and Red, 1977.

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