In the current environment where economic, gender, and health inequalities are intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic, discussions around the provision of care and how to best realise it, is a main concern. How can we make sense of community-organised shared care, in contrast to the rhetoric of care used by governments and corporations attempting to brand themselves as “caring”?
In 2021, Peter Thiel’s spy-tech firm Palantir Technologies, founded with the support of the US Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, was given access to NHS sensitive patient data by the Johnson led UK government, crashing the spheres of informational power into the biopolitical nation state. Previously, James Bridle wrote that data is the new nuclear power, a powerful commodity, unlimited in quantity and in its capacity for harm.
Due to ubiquitous digitisation and the expanding digitalisation practices, data, its capacity to be included in datasets, and care are now entangled into an ethically ambiguous conundrum where, on the one hand, big data can be used to create potential cures via AI,1 and more efficient recovery treatments through the consideration of clinical datasets, and on the other, the GDPR reinforced rights to privacy, and the problems stemming from biases in the datasets.2 National policies however, favour corporations and “although we are hearing much more about care in these unsettling days, carelessness continues to reign”3 as in many countries, the cost of the health insurance is directly linked to the individuals’ digitised health records, sometimes obtained by insurance brokers using questionable means, or mined through posts in social media accounts. These neo-colonial, state-enabled, corporate practices of appropriating human life, and the freedoms on which it depends, is a disturbing byproduct of our technologies whose sole aim is to convert digital inputs into profit.4
1 Unlocking the Power of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in Medicine.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2019;21(11):e16607. doi.org/10.2196/16607
2 Natalia Norori, Qiyang Hu, Florence Marcelle Aellen, Francesca Dalia Faraci, Athina Tzovara. “Addressing bias in big data and AI for health care: A call for open science.” Patterns, Volume 2, Issue 10, 2021. doi.org/10.1016/j.patter.2021.100347
3 The Care Collective. The Care Manifesto. Verso 2020.
4 Nick Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias. The costs of connection. Stanford University Press, 2019.
Curating and Making Art that Challenges Extractive Digital Systems
Abstract: Elite groups constantly channel our social interactions, cultural identities, and interests on their behalf. The narratives and stories of who we are have become distorted, filtered, and engineered following the needs of marketing companies, accepted historical canons, mainstream news media, the military, numerous corporations, and nation-states. Truth, like everything else, is a commodity; it is not a right. The highest bidder owns truth and fact; if you can afford it, you can create, alter and sell mass misinformation to millions.
Our data is harvested and scraped through social media platforms and web browsers. Mass data extraction extends further, involving questionable social engineering and poverty. Amy E. Wendling reminds us that “Machine fetishism is a product of technological alienation” and that the financial crash in 2008 should have warned us of the disastrous effects of machinic alienation.” OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, for its chatbot paid Kenyan workers less than $2 an hour to filter through tens of thousands of “toxic data” and graphic details of NSFW (not safe for work) content such as child sexual abuse, bestiality, murder, suicide, torture, self-harm, and incest. AGI (Artificial general intelligence) introduces new forms of appropriation to the world with technologically based hierarchies reproducing the “ideas of innate supremacy” born “since the days of empire and colonialism.” The uncritical emergence of a hyper-enthusiastic submission and mass use of AI resembles land grabbing by the powers that be and desperation by artists, academics, curators, designers and technologists using it to feel relevant in an ever-changing world, at whatever cost. However, blind devotion to reconfirming privileged world views “where the immediate vulnerability of millions of ordinary people counts as nothing” is building an even worse, uneven future and reconfiguring a stronger positioning for a ‘super race.’
How are creative practitioners, academics, researchers, and arts organisations navigating their experience and production in ways that make a difference rather than contribute to the issues discussed? The presentation aims to unpack these issues and show examples where artists ask critical questions through their practice about the technology that dominates our lives today. These artists include Lynn Hershman Leeson, Valeria Graziano, Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak, Jennifer Lyn Morone™, Mary Flanagan, Heath Bunting, Gretta Louw, Christy Hyman, Cassie Thornton, Mary Maggic, and dyne.org.
Bio: Dr Marc Garrett completed his PhD at Birkbeck University, London, UK. His work explores postdigital contexts of working-class culture as part of an intersectional enquiry. He co-founded the arts collective Furtherfield as a collaborative platform online in 1996 with artist Ruth Catlow. It has two physical venues, a gallery and a Commons lab, both situated in Finsbury Park, London. Garrett has curated over 60 contemporary Media Arts exhibitions and projects nationally and internationally.
He has written many critical and cultural essays, articles, interviews, and books about art, technology and social change. He has co-edited with Yiannis Colakides, Frankenstein Reanimated: Creation & Technology in the 21st Century, 2022, Torque. He has also edited the book Furtherfield: 25 years of Art, Technology and Social Change for 2022, published by Torque.
Body data curriculum: from the embodied self to the interconnected societal organism
Abstract: BASK is a work-in-progress open-source curriculum for recovering from alienation produced in part by pervasive digital surveillance of our bodies. This presentation begun with the practice of some selected embodied exercises from the current version of the curriculum, including at least one drawing or movement exercise; and at least one structured discussion. Next, these embodied pedagogical methods were situated within literature on body observation and body data surveillance. This research thus far (2020-2023) has focused on the experience and understanding of individual bodies (caring for the embodied self). The current goal is to expand the curriculum to empowering collective action and advocacy (caring for an interconnected, societal organism). The presentation concluded with structured brainstorming of what could be possible toolkit mechanisms that such a curriculum can offer both to participants, and as a reusable pedagogical tool.
Bio: Kit Kuksenok, PhD is a multi-disciplinary artist, researcher, and transsexual. Their research explores body knowledge practices: how is the unseen interior human body landscape rendered understandable? Their methods include drawing, dance, speculative fiction, contemplative movement, data analysis, socio-technical systems research, games, corporate drag, autotheory, and experimental pedagogy.
UNLAND presents both documented and fictional material of the Cyprus buffer zone, Varosha, and British military bases, as well as areas of bicommunal activity and farming. These spaces can appear extremely defined and frozen, in part through military and surveillance architecture, as well as the work of the United Nations within the buffer zone. Many areas are blurred and mutable, straddling areas of leisure, nature reserves, tourist areas, farming, and decommissioned zones. These areas appear, strange, uncanny, seemingly in stasis. They can be fascinating, intriguing and hold aesthetic qualities that are at odds with the control, violent history, or their historical and contemporary militarisation. These artworks extend the threshold of the visible through contemporary imaging techniques complemented by the particular ways that artists ‘look’ through making work. The focus of this project has been to move representation of these complex spaces beyond navigation, illustration, aestheticisation or documentation.
Rose Butler, Jeremy Lee, and Kypros Kyprianou hosted a guided tour of the exhibition UNLAND, currently held at the NeMe Arts Centre.
Rose Butler is an artist, researcher and senior lecturer of Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. She uses adapted technology and custom built software alongside early cameras and analogue techniques to make interactive installations, single and multi-screen videos or large-scale photographs.
Rose has recently completed doctoral study that takes place at the Houses of Parliament, London, during the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act followed by analysis of archival film, video and photography from hidden cameras at the Stasi Records Agency. Retro spyware was used covertly whilst the Investigatory Powers Bill was debated, to question what might become visible when surveillance techniques are repurposed to look at surveillance. Rose’s research crosses paths with civil liberties, self-determinism, the politics of big tech and data. She explores the technologies that define the ‘image’ through an exploration of material qualities. Through these processes different forms of representation particularly of sensitive material, sites or contested spaces are problematised.
Kypros Kyprianou is an artist, film maker, curator and AHRC funded PhD candidate at Newcastle University, UK.
His arts practice examines the role that science and technology plays in how we view and interact with the social, political, and material world, historically, in the present, and with an eye to the future. He brings together competing histories through archival documents, myth and hearsay and considers the multi-layered political, social and historical elements of exploring a specific site or context. By combining a documentarian eye for a story with conceptual strategies and frameworks, his installations reposition the viewer in relationship to known or unfamiliar materials. Through his work he engages in playful representations using tropes borrowed from other genres. The combination of narrative and form places the viewer in a paradoxical position between what one sees or what one reads.
Jeremy Lee is an artist researcher and principal lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. He originally trained in Fine Art painting at Cardiff University and then went on to complete a masters in Animation and Visual Effects at the National Centre for Computer Animation (NCCA) Bournemouth. As a digital artist he integrates Fine Art practice with freelance and industrial work alongside teaching and lecturing in digital media.
Current work collaborates with the local museum Creswell Crags, Derbyshire, UK. Using new technique through LiDar scanning, Jeremy created a virtual 3D replica of a cave with recently discovered apotropaic (witch marks) inside. This cave was previously inaccessible to visitors and enabled an exploration of the interior for remote visitors alongside the potential of a detailed examination of the marks for researchers. Recent work of printed ‘texture maps’ were exhibited as part of Middlesborough Art Weekender (2022). Jeremy’s earlier LiDar scans and photogrammetry work were exhibited in the Northern Lights exhibition and conference at SHU 2018 /2019.
Jeremy developed the walking arts research group within the Media Arts and Communications department at Sheffield Hallam University. In 2017 Jeremy was part of Solar as part of the research group for the creative arts festival Catalyst. Solar consisted of an interactive walk through a relative solar system mapped using GPS onto the physical landscape. Digital works of art unlocked on mobile devices at each mapped planet visited. This project was presented at Documenta, Kassel, 2017.
Mapping with Care
Abstract: Driven by the climate urgency the processes of urbanisation require a new, expanded understanding of care, that includes care for non-humans as well as the dehumanized others. The question how to design with such sense of care is complex and difficult to grasp for those involved in the design and decision-making process, already dominated by deeply technocratic data-driven ways of city making. Working from the point of view of the post-human convergence we must ask what kind of and whose data is considered. What bodies constitute the city and how can we not only recognize them, but also include them in the making of socially and ecologically just cities. Within the New Academy at the New Institute, we are researching how to challenge Rotterdam’s self-representation through collecting, visualizing, and broadening the spectrum of knowledges that make up the city with the ones that are often omitted, devalued, misrepresented, or silenced to bring the city and its future closer to its own people. In this process we encounter many challenges that concern collection, analysis, and appropriation of data. Our aim is to create a method for collection and representation of the marginalized voices in the city without appropriating them or making them more vulnerable than they already are through a system of ‘mapping’ that would allow to develop a more collective, sustainable, and just future for the city that is currently violently driven by capital interests.
Bio: Ania Molenda is an independent Rotterdam-based researcher, curator, and writer. She is a co-founder and director of research and publishing platform Amateur Cities and is currently engaged as a researcher at Nieuwe Instituut. In her work, Ania focuses on the socio-cultural dimension of spatial practices. She is interested in developing new forms of debate that bring different disciplines together. Since 2017, she has been involved in research on technical and cultural aspects of dealing with complex digital archives. Before starting an independent career, Ania worked as a researcher and design teacher at TU Delft Faculty of Architecture (The Why Factory) as well as an architect at MVRDV, Powerhouse Company, and SVESMI. In 2019 she was a finalist of the Geert Bekaert Award for architectural criticism, and in 2018 a co-recipient of Dutch Design Award in Design Research for Amateur Cities and New Generations.
Behavioural design strategies for quantified communities.
Abstract: We are now living in the age of the “Quantified Self,” where tracking sleep, physical activity, and dietary habits are becoming increasingly widespread across a diverse demographic. The use of goal-oriented and gamified apps motivates individuals to collect and share data, which is then analysed by aggregation apps to build a broader understanding of their world. The e-Health market has experienced significant growth, with estimates suggesting that there are hundreds of thousands of such apps available, with a market value in the billions of dollars. This growth is not just driven by product sales, but also by the vast amounts of data collected by these companies, which they then sell to those conducting market research on aspects such as foot traffic, quality of life and creating digital twins. While this data could be valuable to local service providers, they currently have to purchase it from these companies, which are purposely collecting it through wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
Using the tool of behavioural design and the collection of personal data through devices and sensors how might we move from the model of the Quantified Self to a Quantified Community? This community could act as a cooperative with people in the community feeding in their data and the co-op distributing the data in ways that can benefit the community through research, regeneration projects, environmental monitoring and other altruistic projects. I want to explore how make data visible through visual art interventions can get communities to better understand what they are and how they might be used.
Bio: Leon Butler is an artist and designer working at the intersection of art and technology. Leon’s work has been exhibited internationally and has been recognised by The Type Directors Club, European Media Arts Platform, 100 Archive, the Future Makers, Digital Media Awards, Young Directors Awards and the Irish Design Awards. Recent shows include Transient Topographies (National Sculpture Factory Ireland), A Visible City (The Digital Hub, Ireland), Emperor 101 (SxSW and Dublin Theatre Festival), Shelter and Place (Carlow/ Cork Midsummer Festivals, Ireland), Desired (Los Angeles, US).
ΑΠΟαποικιοΠΟΙΗΣΗ: Decolonising Cypriot AI through poetry and ethical data practices
Abstract: ΑΠΟαποικιοΠΟΙΗΣΗ (APOapikioPIISI), a word-play between the Greek words “decolonisation” (αποαποικιοποίηση) and “poetry” (ποίηση), is an artistic investigation on the topics of colonialism/decolonisation in Cyprus, in both historical and digital context. It is concerned with the compilation of a community-created dataset of written Cypriot Greek (CyGr), and the subsequent publication of a poetry collection, through the collaboration of 9 writers with a custom-trained Natural Language Processing (NLP) AI model. This presentation provided an overview of the project’s process, challenges, and results, from consenting data collection practices, to co-authoring poetry with the CyGr NLP model. An important challenge was that CyGr is a non-standard language variety with no officially codified writing system and with limited language resources; to reduce “noise” in our data, we had to homogenise the orthography of the created dataset. Another challenge was the ethical dilemma of whether or not to allow open access to the dataset of a language variety that is globally spoken by a small population (therefore, not profitable) and that has been stigmatised by hegemonic narratives. The project aims to contribute to the de-stigmatisation of CyGr and the spreading of a more systematic homogeneous way of spelling. It also aims to provide technological agency to an island on the peripheries of the global AI infrastructure, where the legacies of colonialism are still evident. While Cyprus is currently at the early stages of adopting AI technologies, ΑΠΟαποικιοΠΟΙΗΣΗ attempts to sow the first seeds towards a framework of what ethical data practices and a decolonised Cypriot AI could look like from a local perspective, and open a dialogue about the role and influence of AI in our lives. It also provides an opportunity for CyGr speakers to interact with technology in the language variety they use in their daily lives.
Bio: Alexia Achilleos is a Finnish-Cypriot artist and researcher, with a background in fine art, archaeology and cultural studies. Alexia is interested in the power dynamics that impact narrative, with a current focus on the Eastern Mediterranean region. By investigating data and utilising machine learning processes, often in a historical context, she aims to re-examine such topics from a different perspective. Her work re-interprets dominant narratives and questions biases found within history and society, but also within AI technology itself, particularly challenging the idea of technology as universal and objective. Her work has been exhibited at institutions and conferences such as NeMe Arts Centre, World Intellectual Property Organisation, Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), and NeurIPS Workshop on Machine Learning for Creativity and Design. She is a member of the Artists’ Association MUU, Finland and NeMe, Cyprus. Alexia is a PhD Fellow at CYENS Centre of Excellence, undertaking artistic research on colonialism and AI, as well as a Research Associate at the Media Art & Design Research Lab (MADLab) at Cyprus University of Technology.
Eleftheria Sokratous is an artist, with a background in (inclusive) dance and performing arts. As a performer and maker, her work revolves around using movement as a tool for social change, researching political matters, activism, and creating participatory projects with local communities. She also teaches movement at institutions for adults with various disabilities. In addition, Eleftheria manages and coordinates the artistic projects of “Ipogeia Skini,” a Limassol-based NGO focused on producing its own cultural activities, as well as providing shelter to local and international artists to research and create beyond the given structures, allowing them to experiment with new ideas and artistic trends. The NGO’s physical space, Synergeio, is open to citizens’ initiatives for cultural and social action that promotes a form of art that evolves from solidarity as well as through the reflection of everyday life. A recent project of Eleftheria and “Ipogeia Skini” is ΑΠΟαποικιοΠΟΙΗΣΗ, in collaboration with the linguist Spyros Armostis and the artist Alexia Achilleos.
Radical Friends – Artworld DAOs for Care and Translocal Belonging
Abstract: Translocality changes the way we think about the places, people and cultures to which we belong as a result of globalisation, migration and hyperconnectivity. It specifically describes the fact that we all live in multiple layered and interconnected localilties both physical and online – all at once. Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) are blockchain based organisations that allow the 10% of the global human population who now hold crypto wallets to hold shared funds and resources, to circulate their own currencies and distribute them across national boundaries according to rules they make through a process of proposals and voting.
Ruth Catlow discussed the importance to DAO developments of ideas of care, cooperation and belonging especially in relation to place and locality.
Radical Friends – Decentralised Autonomous Organisations and the Arts co-edited by Ruth Catlow and Penny Rafferty is a collection of essays, interviews, artworks, and prototypes by art workers, thinkers, lawyers, engineers and activists. It is the culmination of 8 years of exhibitions, labs, think-thanks, prototyping and publications organised and produced through distributed friendship networks.
Why is an art book about the distributed consensus technologies of the blockchain framed around friendship? At a very simple level friendship provides the best compass for remembering what’s important when assessing complex technologies. The principles of friendship are understood and valued in all societies. Sustained intimacy, fellowship and camaraderie is where we encounter and negotiate differences and difficulties most intensely over time. It is also a motivation to creatively learn what we each need to help each other grow and thrive. But beyond that, radical friendship strengthens our resolve to fight for better strategies to counter the effects of millennia of patriarchal and colonial control exercised through the institutions of state, religions, and now corporations which together determine which kinds of relationships we are allowed to have, what rituals we must participate in in order to belong and what how our behaviour is to be restricted and the penalties that we must face for transgression.
With a focus on translocality Catlow critically examined the hazards and opportunities of DAOs as a powerful – and for many – powerfully disturbing financial technology. She showed two examples of projects working with DAO technologies, Black Swan DAO and CultureStake, to increase access to tools and ideas and experiment with democracy – governance, cooperation and coordination. With the kin we choose we can explore how to care for each other in order to build intergenerational thriving and resilience. It is this spirit of radical care that we wanted to activate in and beyond our artworld DAO experimentation.
Bio: Ruth Catlow is a recovering web utopian, an artist, researcher and curator of emancipatory network cultures, practices and poetics. She is Co-Director of Furtherfield for art, technology and eco-social change, and Co-PI at Serpentine Galleries Blockchain Lab. She specialises in critical group-driven discovery and playful co-creation that embraces more than human interests for fairer and more connected cultural ecologies and economies. Projects include: Larps for planetary-scale interspecies justice; the CultureStake app for collective cultural decision-making using QV on the blockchain; books such as Radical Friends – Decentralised Autonomous Organisations and the Arts (2022) and Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain (2017).
Radical Care: Feminist Finance Zine & Syllabus
The Feminist Finance zine and syllabus to be presented by Inte Gloerich and Ania Molenda, is a cooperative future-thinking effort from the MoneyLab network dedicated to the task of experimenting with more equitable, diverse, and sustainable futures for finance and economy. Both publications bring together diverse collection of voices that blur the boundaries between academia, creative industries, arts, and activism. By connecting situated knowledge with theoretical insights and design speculations, they aim to contribute to developing bottom-up up understandings of the relationship between care and economy, critiques of the current systems, and probes at developing better futures. The content of the zine originated at the MoneyLab conference organised by the Institute of Network Cultures in 2019, where we were able to ‘fork’ the conference’s topic towards a more activist / radical / politicised lens, offering a feminist reading of the event. Using a mix of experimental and traditional formats, the zine was a way to work through a topic together, reacting to each other’s point of view and finding shared perspectives. The syllabus became an unexpected extension of the project that came out of the generative conversations during the improvised online launch of the zine during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Care and crypto-economy
Blockchains have a tendency to draw everything they touch into a market logic. Professor of social justice and equality Kathleen Lynch writes that “the logics of care are antithetical to the logics of capital” and financial technologies like blockchain are often thought to exacerbate this dynamic through the representation and tokenization of certain things while invisibilising others. Are alternatives possible? Learning from feminist economic theory and its focus on care as a central value in economic relations, this presentation explores how care, blockchain, and economy can relate differently. What kind of practices might be thought of as ‘cryptofeminist’? How do critical and feminist engagements with blockchain technology support personal connections and community-building? How might blockchain projects reflect more-than-human entanglement? Could care for nature be brought to the fore in the context of crypto-economics?
Bio: Inte Gloerich is a PhD researcher at Utrecht University and the Institute of Network Cultures, exploring the sociotechnical imaginaries around blockchain technology as they appear in memes, startup culture, and art. More broadly, Inte’s work involves politics, artistic imagination, and (counter)cultures surrounding digital technology and economy. She co-edited MoneyLab Reader 2: Overcoming the Hype and State Machines: Reflections and Actions at the Edge of Digital Citizenship and organised conferences addressing the crossroads between economy, technology, culture, and politics. She was a contributor to the Feminist Finance Zine and Syllabus and teaches Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam.