Jonathan Rosen has explored, through mixed-media collage and digital technologies, people’s hidden desires with the phrase, “I WANT….”. For Rosen’s series extension “CODE”, he’s turned his attention to the once silent masses whose desires in a post-internet world are now unleashed. Now with the ability to cloak one’s identity behind an avatar, strangers are often hidden in plain view. They are our co-workers, our family members, our baristas, or potentially the person laying in bed next to us.

Rosen has created a dark and mysterious installation of seven 48 x 72 glowing light boxes with his signature “I WANT” radiating in white. When viewed up close, thousands of lines of computer code become clear. He uses source code from actual apps, social media and news articles here. Rosen pulls morsels of code and text into the foreground using vivid color, hinting to the strangers that lie beneath. To most of us, these codes are indecipherable, however when Augmented Reality (created in collaboration with Wallplay) is applied, then the true motives of each desire are revealed.

I WANT TO BE ANONYMOUS using source code from Reddit’s Controversial section alludes to the culture of internet trolling. It’s AR component reveals a digital collage of hundreds of the iconic pop-culture toy Troll Dolls providing irony and comic relief to the vulgar comment threads and the negative underbelly of social media.  

I WANT THE TRUTH radiating in only black, white and 50% grey, reveals the sad epidemic of fake news and the maze of conspiracy theories propagated online.

Rosen’s I WANT TO BE LOVED, made from dating site OKCupid’s source code seems romantic at first glance, only until the AR reveals actual men and women who have created fake accounts for the purpose of “cat fishing” vulnerable potential lovers. Both the catfish and the prey simply want love.

Leading a double life has become effortless in the internet age, as one can simply log on and slip into the identity they desire. Whether the intention is nefarious or not, none of us are immune to this phenomenon. It leaves us to wonder who the real strangers are in our own lives.