I gave a presentation about several of my Facebook-focused works and then engaged in panel discussion about The Power of Facebook with Nabiha Syed from The Markup, design sociologist Theo Ploeg, and host Margarita Ospian of The Hmm, a group that investigates internet culture out of The Netherlands. From the organizers:
During this event we try to better understand the power of Facebook together with three speakers. Nabiha Syed from the non-profit newsroom The Markup, will tell how they’re keeping an eye on Big Tech companies, and developing tools that reveal when we are being tracked. Artist Ben Grosser will share his Facebook related projects, including ‘Safebook’, a Facebook without content. And design sociologist Theo Ploeg will explain why he thinks our data does not provide any insight into us.
My talk starts at 1:03 in the embed above. I’ve queued it up, but I definitely recommend watching the whole event.
I gave a keynote presentation at Sankt Interface 2020, an annual event from the Interface Cultures Program at the University of Art in Linz, Austria. Interface Cultures is co-directed by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, and the event was co-coordinated by Cesar Escudero Andaluz. I’ve queued up the video above, but I also highly recommend the talk before mine by Valentina Tanni on her Meme Aesthetics book, as well as the Q&A with both of us after my talk.
The Endless Doomscroller in the front of Studio 207 in Bergen, Norway
The Endless Doomscroller is part of this year’s Piksel Festival in Bergen, Norway. The festival spans several sites; my work is up at Studio 207. An annual event focused on electronic art and technological freedom, this year’s festival, titled “The future narrow, where you don’t want to go,” focuses on the following:
…We appropriate and hack Leandro Pisano’s words: We need to understand rural/online/local areas as complex spaces actively immersed in the dynamism of encounters, flows and fluxes of contemporary geographies, and critically question modern discourses of capitalism and metropolitanism in which rural/online/local territories are marginalized and considered as doomed to oblivion.
My film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE is part of the B3 Biennial of the Moving Image in Frankfurt, from 9-18 October. As part of my participation in the festival, I spent some time talking with Johannes Grenzfurthner (founder of monochrom, director of Traceroute and many other films). We chat about software, algorithms, neutralism, social credit, self-driving cars, how big tech influences artistic expression, and, unavoidably, more.
My film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE was named a Jury Selection at the Japan Media Arts Festival in Tokyo. The work will be on exhibit at Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, from 19-27 September.
Future Present: Design in a Time of Urgency at Science Gallery Detroit
My work Safebook is part of exhibition at Science Gallery Detroit titled Future Present: Design in a Time of Urgency. Curated by Antajuan Scott, Mark Sullivan, Cezanne Charles, Olga Stella, and Ralph Borland, the exhibition asks questions such as:
…how does the design of technology impact society? What impact does design have on the built environment, and on the communities that occupy it? How does design feature in food systems and food security, in biology and scientific inquiry? And what is the entwinement of design with social visions, such as Afro or indigenous futurism?
The exhibition is up through December 11th at 1001 Woodward in Detroit.
I gave an artist talk at the Athens Digital Arts Festival, where my work Safebook was on exhibition. Titled Hide (Nearly) Everything: Understanding Social Media Through Net Art Strategies of Resistance, the abstract was:
The world is learning more every day about how data collected by the dominant software platforms is not just used to “improve the lives of as many people as possible” (Google), or, to “give people the power to build communities” (Facebook), but is also producing broad negative effects for the cultural, social, and political future of humanity. In particular, the designs of these systems compel users to provide increasing amounts of personal information, enabling rapid expansion of corporate and state infrastructures for the purposes of surveillance, profiling, and profit. While outcries over resulting events such as Cambridge Analytica’s manipulations of the electorates in the US and UK have led to campaigns like #deletefacebook, most users remain unwilling to disconnect—especially in this new era of global pandemic. Given this, an alternative approach is the artist’s strategy of “software recomposition,” treating existing websites not as fixed spaces of consumption and interaction but instead as fluid spaces of manipulation and experimentation. This talk by the artist behind Safebook (part of ADAF) will present several of his projects that aim to not only investigate the cultural effects of software, but to also restore user agency over where, how, and when user data is (ab)used.
Real-Time Constraints, arebyte Gallery, London, UK
Opening today from arebyte Gallery in London is Real-Time Constraints, a browser-extension-based exhibition critically examines “the current state of automated and autonomic computing to provide alternative narratives to data-driven and algorithmic approaches, referencing fake-news, gender bias and surveillance.” The show includes work by Gretchen Andrew, Sofia Crespo X Dark Fractures, DISNOVATION, Jake Elwes, Ben Grosser, Libby Heaney, and Joel Simon, and is co-curated with Luba Elliott and Rebecca Edwards.
Taking the form of a browser plug-in, the exhibition reveals itself as a series of pop-ups where the works are disseminated over the duration of a typical working day, interrupting the screen to provide a ‘stopping cue’ from relentless scrolling, email notifications and other computer-centered, interface-driven work. Real-Time Constraints presents itself as a benevolent invasion – the size, quantity, content and sound of the pop-ups have been decided upon by each artist to feed into the networked performance. The exhibition is experienced through a synchronised global approach where viewers encounter the same pop-ups at the same time no matter where they are, amplifying the exhibition’s disturbance of mundanity across every time zone.
You can download the exhibition for Firefox or Chrome (links later removed as its no longer available), and see the exhibition booklet here.
I also participated in an exhibition opening panel discussion on AI and Art with most of the participants in the exhibition:
I’m very happy to be a part of this exhibition, not only because of who I’m working with but also because of the novel form and approach it takes during this time of pandemic.
The exhibition runs from 24 July to 30 September, 2020.
I first met Geert Lovink in 2013, while attending the Unlike Us #3 conference at the Institute for Network Cultures in Amsterdam (INC). I was there to speak about Facebook Demetricator, in what was at that time one of the first talks I’d given about the project. INC, which was founded by Geert, “analyzes and shapes the terrain of network cultures through events, publications, and online dialogue. [Their] projects evolve around urgent publishing, alternative revenue models, critical design and making, digital counter culture and much more.” Before and since, I have regularly looked to and read their free publications as a timely and astute critical lens on social media, networks, and platforms in the 21st century. Further, Geert’s books (such as Sad by Design, Social Media Abyss, Networks without a Cause, and more), blog posts, and other writings constitute an evolving analysis of the internet that blends European theory with practice-based research and aesthetics. If you aren’t already familiar with Geert and INC’s work, check it out.
Since the publication of Geert’s latest book and the release of my recent film (which Geert wrote about here), we’ve been talking, and one outcome of that is the recently published dialogue on the INC blog, where we wrote back and forth about platform capitalism, software recomposition, post-digital and the new aesthetic, the broad shift from text to image, the state of online video (including TikTok), whether an avant-garde can happen on social media at all, and, as always, more.