spencer's art

Spencer Chang (he/they) is a San Francisco-based artist, designer and programmer who creates infrastructure to create space for alternate internet imaginations from the dominant single narrative. Through his crafted infrastructure (tools|games|websites|spaces), he creates environments that give visitors creative agency for creating their own technological narratives, uncovering the unexpected poetics in our everyday actions and solidarity in our casual encounters. By focusing on infrastructural work, Spencer continues the path laid by "maintenance art," where "the working is the art," to imagine, realize, and maintain foundations that enable people to subvert their own assumptions about what computers are and who we are in relation to them.

Their work has been shown at conferences in Amsterdam, CultureHub in New York, and the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. Full Artist CV or see more work at spencerchang.me



still of cursor watching

cursor watching is a multimedia installation that plays with the contrasting extremes of institutional surveillance and human witnessing inherent to browsing the internet to question how we watch and are watched in the process. Mimicking a surveillance feed at first glance, the website reveals itself upon closer attention to be a collection of live windows looking onto various corners of the internet. Presenting our everyday internet activity as a collective performance, this internet environment invites visitors to consider how they show up in the act and how their actions are perceived.

Shown at The Net Gala in Brooklyn, NY.

still of cursor park

"cursor park" reimagines an everyday productivity tool into a communal canvas. This piece takes its cue from the whimsical 'cursor park' trend, an ASCII art that serves as a virtual resting place for cursors in a shared document, emerging as a collective moment of stillness amidst the digital hustle.

Through a satirical form, “cursor park” challenges viewers to perceive our everyday digital actions and interactions as artistic expressions comparable to fine art. Co-opting a space traditionally dedicated to long lines of text towards optimizing efficiency, this piece gives space for the cursors, our digital embodiments, to become the storytellers in an ongoing performance. Each cursor embodies an individual's presence, their movements composing a narrative of coexistence.

Inviting visitors to observe, engage, and perform, "cursor park" is a testament to the collective narrative we create in our interconnected digital landscape, a narrative crafted with our very presence.

still of SIGIL Iceramic, epoxy putty, and NFC chip

SIGIL I

12/2023

A ceramic charm of my personal logo derived from my Chinese name (正) with an NFC chip inside with my website written on it. I carry it whenever I go out to keep my website close, and when I meet people I can "give" them my website by tapping their phones with my stamp.

SIGIIL I is an experiment in creating single-purpose objects to represent digital ones, giving them form, texture, and history.

still of fridge poemhtml, javascript, css, playhtml

A poem about picking up trash is materialized as fridge magnets. Each word is movable by visitors, so the piece is changed by anyone who visits, creating a site of communal poetry creation. By giving visitors the power of free-form movement, words take on a life of their own and the shape of the original poem is transformed into the particular desires and intuitions of visitors on any given day. How do words transform when they are adopted by a new owner? Who dictates meaning in a communal space?

still of WWW gathering(image credit Chia Amisola)

A gathering facilitated with Chia Amisola and HTML Energy for freewriting HTML in the park.

The gathering happened in the same few hours across 5 different locations around the world, including New York, London, Amsterdam, and Boston. I built a website that connected each location with a portal, which allowed location-specific participants to decorate their own location link and see a collective artifact at the end.

This took place with over 20 attendees in Alamo Square Park

(photos & artifacts https://www.are.na/bay-area-95sssqibasq/w-s-www-gathering)

still of html gardenhtml, javascript, css, p5.js

html garden is an attempt to imagine what a "seasonal website" looks like, one that rewards visitors for coming back and noticing, a very different and radical act from the way large platforms force interface changes. Visitors are encouraged to take a stroll through and use their inherent browser mechanisms to zoom in and take a closer peek at the plants that call to them.

html garden is composed of digitally-native plants, formed from HTML elements that simulate the growth patterns of real plants (backed by a grammar that means you could create your own plant!). Returning repeatedly will reward you with the sights of growth in each plant along with budding offspring, and you might just find new species as you come to become a regular at this neighborhood garden. The slow growth of the website day-to-day invites returning to the same place on the internet and bearing witness to its change.

created for thehtml.review, exhibited in Amsterdam, New York (CultureHub), and San Francisco (the DeYoung Museum), and featured in Frieze and MIT Technology Review.

still of (we)bsite

(we)bsite

02/2023

(we)bsite is a living collection of internet dreams from people like you, inhabitants of the internet. It aims to create space to hold, show, and uplift everyday visions and hopes for the internet. A living exhibit that continuously evolves with the actions of visitors (each letter contains fingerprints from past visitors who have touched them)

Despite all the time we spend on the internet, most of us are passive consumers of content and interfaces. Our standard digital environments do not offer let alone encourage us to imagine and create alternative futures for the internet.

What if everyone who used the internet was encouraged to dream about it? What would it look like if we collectively imagine and build a better internet together?

Change starts with possibility. We hope (we)bsite can be a catalyst for change by showing all the love, care, memories, and dreams that people have for the internet.

still of employment statushtml, javascript, css

I made this website to process the ocean of emotions that the experience has filled me with. Intense ones, urgent ones that ran the full spectrum of feeling. Shock, loss, grief, shame, sorrow, anger, resent, frustration, confusion, destabilization, exhaustion, disbelief; but also: warmth, love, care, curiosity, excitement, freedom, lightness, play, humor, new beginnings, flight. And all the things in between: skepticism, irony, sarcasm, drama.

This piece is meant to try to emulate some part of the experience of being laid off. I wanted to give voice to the layoff experience, to confront people who have been fortunate enough to never experience its destabilization to understand a bit more about those who were unlucky. And to give space for the voices of countless others who have had their the routine of their life stripped from them suddenly, left to find their own way home, uncertain about who to commiserate with, who of their peers had also been affected, how to tell their loved ones in a way that would not be too devastating, how to find a new source of living, how to find a new sense of purpose, how to return to a deepened sense of self.

I hope this piece helps people feel more connected in their experience. And maybe, just maybe, it will show the cruelties in the normalized processes of conducting these and point to more human ways of conducting layoffs, or provoke speculations of ways of forming work structures that change the balance of power between company and individual.

still of i love livingApple Shortcuts, Apple Notes, Siri

i love living is an ongoing archival piece of all the moments you feel gratitude for life created by folk software, the kind made in-place in the context of existing devices and technologies. The piece is activated for each individual when it is installed onto phone as an automation. Once installed, the automation enables the user to tell their device voice assistant “I love living,” which archives a timestamp, location, and a front and back photo from the device’s camera to an on-device note called “i love living.” This piece leverages the power of archival that all of our devices offer us and activates a lasting archive and performance piece for each person that installs it.

Install it on your device (iOS only).

still of wall of windows

Simultaneously an ever-changing snapshot of the latest of 4 categories from my life (what I ate, a sky I saw, a moment that struck me, and a selfie) and an ephemeral social network featuring vignettes into visitors’ everyday lives, memorialized into the grain of the site. An experiment in a site that rewards returning because visitors could only see the latest ones. How could a site live, breathe, and change as I did so as I lived?

still of 8-bite

8-bite

05/2022

An 8-ball is reimagined as an 8-bit game reimagined as a poetry machine. Readers play the game using their arrow keys to move the 8-ball around to consume words. Rather than collecting points like in Pacman, readers eat words and punctuations to create their own poem, which automatically fills in the space below the grid. The grid is filled with a select number of random words from a pre-filled work bank for each part of speech, including punctuation, and the game is over when all words have been consumed. Replay variety is amplified through randomization and words that multitask in sentence function (e.g. as both verb and noun), despite a limited word bank. Toying with consumption (eight=ate), luck (8-ball), constraint (the 4 directions), and poetic composition (with 8 words in a grid of 16), 8-Bite is a playful poetic contraption that literally makes you eat your words. How do you win a game of poetry? What happens when luck is a functional constraint on beauty?

What does it mean to create poetry by eating your words (taking things back) in an irretractable gameplay?

A simplified version was published in taper 8, an issue of a computational poetry journal.

still of verses verseshtml, javascript, css, bullet lists

A collection of and tool for creating shapeshifting verses that morph as the reader engages with them. This piece leverages the unique capability of the digital medium to create poems that have a life of their own and transform depending on how the reader chooses, giving them the power of authorship. How does meaning shift as the text changes with engagement? How can the reader create, and choose, their own meaning as they explore in the textual landscape?

still of spencer’s paradoxes

spencer’s paradoxes is the name of my personal newsletter. I’ve written regularly on this blog since 2022. Some notable endeavors include a 100 mini-essay experiment over the course of 2022 and a subsidiary newsletter for my regular research log, called tiny internets.

My writing acts as a public journal recording my ongoing questions, struggles, and joys. I also document my creative process and share my thinking about leading a creative life.