29 November–15 December 2017
Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana
Part of the programme State Machines
Exploitation Forensics is a collection of maps and documents created as a result of investigations conducted in the last few years by the SHARE Lab. The maps will help visitors explore the invisible layers of contemporary technological black boxes and their fractal supply chains, exposing various forms of hidden labour and the exploitation of material resources and data.
There are many reasons why we should be interested in the black boxes hidden within Facebook algorithmic factory, the first map in the exhibition. They mediate and record our every interaction, our deepest personal communications, our behaviour and our activities. Within these invisible walls, in every moment algorithms decide which information will appear in our infosphere, what kind of content will become part of our reality and what will be censored or deleted. Moreover, these black boxes have defined new forms of labour and exploitation and have generated an enormous amount of wealth and power for the owners of the invisible immaterial factories, creating a large economic gap between those who own and control the means of production and the users who often live below the poverty line. Somewhere hidden deep under the layers of Facebook’s algorithmic machines are new forms of potential human rights violations, new forms of exploitation and mechanisms of manipulation that influence billions of people each day.
Each of our networked devices and the vast Internet infrastructure that constitute those systems, hide many interesting stories behind the invisible layers of fractal production chains, exploitation of resources and energy consumption. Invisible labour hidden within invisible restricted locations – from the deep mine holes over the office boxes of outsourced companies to the invisible working spaces of digital labour around the globe – is the focus of interest of Anatomy of an AI system, the second map in the exhibition. This map will guide visitors through the birth, life and death of one networked device, based on a centralized artificial intelligence system, Amazon Alexa, exposing its extended anatomy and various forms of exploitation.
The Cloud is supported by large amounts of hard, and usually low paid, human labour, hidden in the underground. Sometimes, the human labour is there just to replace algorithmic processes; sometimes it is there to serve as feedback to algorithms; and sometimes it is managed by the algorithms themselves. In the world where the “neutrality” of algorithms is more reliable than human decisions, human labour is carefully hidden behind interfaces and far away from the shiny main headquarters. Human labour is in this sense considered dirty and should be invisible, in contrast to the minimalistic design interfaces and the cold and reliable algorithms that have become the face of the networked society. However, the cognitive workforce in charge of the intangible modes of production of technology, such as research, conceptualization and design, is completely separated from the physical reality associated with the material production of their ideas. The working spaces of the 21st century technological cognitive factories, e.g. Facebook and Google offices in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, stage ideal work and leisure paradigms disconnected from the different realities that they trigger: inhuman labour conditions, radioactive landscapes, poverty, sickness and death.
In this talk, Vladan Joler dives into the landscapes shaped by the algorithmic factories of the surveillance economy, and the associated exploitation of material and immaterial labour and natural resources. He explores maps of the Facebook Empire and investigates the deep anatomy of machine learning systems and the hidden human labour behind them.
Prof. Vladan Joler is Share Foundation founder and professor at the University of Novi Sad. He is the leader of the SHARE Lab, a research and data investigation lab for exploring various technical aspects of the intersection between technology and society. The Share Foundation is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to protecting the rights of Internet citizens and promoting positive values of openness, decentralization, free access and exchange of knowledge, information and technology.
SHARE Lab is a small, independent research and data investigation group exploring various technical aspects of the intersection between technology and society. They use a variety of research and forensics methods to map the landscapes of surveillance capitalism, exploring black boxes and contemporary forms of power and the exploitation of labour, material resources and quantified nature.
Author: SHARE Lab
Production of the exhibition:
Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2017
Facebook Algorithmic Factory (Map)
Vladan Joler (SHARE Lab): Research, text, data collecting and visualization
Andrej Petrovski (SHARE Lab) : Research, text and proofreading
Contributors : Nikola Kotur, Kristian Lukic and Jan Krasni
Facebook Algorithmic Factory (Video)
SHARE Lab In cooperation with Katarzyna Szymielewicz (Panoptykon Foundation)
Special thanks: EDRI and Digital Rights Fund
Anatomy of an AI System
Vladan Joler (SHARE Lab) and Kate Crawford (AI Now)
Special thanks: Joana Moll and Mozilla Open IoT Studio
Event realised in the framework of State Machines, a joint project by Aksioma (SI), Drugo more (HR), Furtherfield (UK), Institute of Network Cultures (NL) and NeMe (CY).
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana.