The Hidden Life of a Browser

Joana Moll
Joana Moll
The Hidden Life of a Browser

Workshop
16–17 February 2022, 2 PM–5 PM
The Academy of Fine Arts and Design, UL, Video and New Media Department, Tobačna 5, Ljubljana

Registration required.

Language: English
Max. number of participants: 25

Aimed at:
art and design students, young artists, professors of visual art, new media and design, students and professionals in the fields of sociology, cultural anthropology and philosophy

Part of Tactics & Practice #12: New Extractivism
In the framework of konS – Platform for Contemporary Investigative Art


Although most of our daily transactions are carried out through electronic devices, we know very little about the apparatus that makes such interactions possible, or in other words, the factory behind the interface: massive infrastructures, intensive data extraction processes and opaque business models. Ad Tech (AT) is the main business model within the so-called Digital Economy, yet it remains alarmingly obfuscated. “AT is the cornerstone of the modern internet: the source of wealth for some of the biggest and most important companies in the world: Google earns more than 80% of its revenue from advertising; Facebook, around 99%, and it is the mechanism by which almost every ‘free’ website or app makes money.” AT business model heavily relies on monetising user activity by extracting and sharing user data with advertisers in order to provide tailor-made ads. These processes are carried out by cookies and other supporting technologies embedded in websites, apps, videos, and other formats of digital media. When a user visits a website using a browser, tracking software automatically triggers the collection of all types of user data, which is now owned by the tracking company (e.g., Amazon, Google, Facebook) — and which it has the legal right to exploit. Moreover, all the energy required to load this relatively large amount of information is effectively demanded from the user, who ends up bearing not only part of the economic cost of these hidden monetisation processes, but also a portion of its environmental footprint.

Takeaways
The workshop will analyse and trace back the many companies that extract and monetise user activity, together with the technologies they use, and will focus on the material and geopolitical dimensions of AT intensive data extraction processes. The main goal of this workshop is to deepen the understanding of the multiple vectors that converge in the configuration of the Digital Economy and to provide participants with the technical and analytical skills to regain agency on AT abusive business model practices.


[1] Gilad Edelman, Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/ad-tech-could-be-the-next-internet-bubble/

THE AUTHOR

Joana Moll is a Barcelona/Berlin-based artist and researcher. Her work critically explores the way techno-capitalist narratives affect the alphabetization of machines, humans and ecosystems. Her main research topics include internet geopolitics, data materiality, surveillance, techno-colonialism and interfaces. She has presented her work in renowned institutions, museums and universities around the world, such as at the Venice Biennale, MAXXI, MMOMA, CCCB, ZKM, Ars Electronica, transmediale, ISEA, and the British Computer Society, among many others. Her work has been featured in The Financial Times, Der Spiegel, National Geographic, Quartz, Wired, Vice, The New Inquiry, Netzpolitk, O’Globo, La Repubblica, Fast Company, NBC and the MIT Press. She is the co-founder of the Critical Interface Politics Research Group at HANGAR [Barcelona] and co-founder of The Institute for the Advancement of Popular Automatisms. She is currently a visiting lecturer at Universität Potsdam and Escola Elisava.

CREDITS

Author: Joana Moll

Production:
Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2022

Partner:
The Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana

Part of the series:
Tactics & Practice

In the framework of:
konS – Platform for Contemporary Investigative Art

The project konS:: Platform for Contemporary Investigative Art was chosen on the public call for the selection of the operations “Network of Investigative Art and Culture Centres”. The investment is co-financed by the Republic of Slovenia and by the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union.

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