Exhibits at The Glass Room San Francisco

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David Mirzoeff 2017

The Glass Room has five thematic areas bringing to life the hidden aspects of digital technologies: Deeply Personal which looks into the dark side of personal data; Invisible Labor which examines the human and environmental processes behind technologies; Trust in Us which features works on Big Tech; Big Mother which looks at the risks and rewards of technology; and Open the Box which examines the journeys that our personal data takes.

Deeply personal

Just as we are unpredictable and imperfect, so is our personal data. The information you give when you sign up for an app or browse the web might confirm you are ‘you’, but that personal data doesn’t say everything about you. Nevertheless, that data can still be used to suggest you a date, deny you access to a bar or to a loan, target you with a political ad, or determine if you’re fit for a job.

Is that you? MegaPixels uses a custom built facial recognition system to search for your face amongst the millions of images used for training faci...
The US Army, together with several universities and companies, is funding research into the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT), a project that a...
Tired of endlessly swiping through no-matches on dating apps? Are you over the back-and-forth messaging that leads nowhere? Smell Dating is a new k...
Even if you think your password is unique, according to a 2019 survey by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, “123456” is the most commonly use...
Wherever large amounts of data are collected, there are often empty spaces where no data live. Mimi Onuoha’s ongoing research project identifies th...
Have you ever wished you could hide traces of your digital self that are left online? Deletion Process_Only you can see my history exposes artist K...
Everyone is afraid of what they might be missing on the internet, but few of us know what’s missing from the internet. Blacklistsis an encyclopedia...
Have you ever jaywalked? Or maybe you’re the type who shoots a look at someone crossing the street illegally. Belgian artist Dries Depoorter’s Jayw...
If you wish you had more followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, Quick Fix lets you buy followers or likes in just a few seconds. C...
Maybe you don’t think twice when you hand over your driver’s license to be scanned. But you might have a different view if you knew what was behind...
Emotion recognition, psychometric profiling, and sentiment analysis are increasingly being used by companies, social media platforms, and others to...
By now, Siri and Alexa have become household names. We share both mundane and sensitive information with them. Have you considered the depth of you...
Networked Optimization is a series of three crowdsourced versions of popular self-help books: How to Win Friends & Influence People, The 5 Lov...
As you make your way around the city each day you are constantly emitting data from your devices and being filmed on closed circuit TV (CCTV). The ...

Invisible labor

You probably open your laptop or swipe your phone several times a day, if not per hour. How often do you think about where the device was made, who assembled it, how long it took? Technologies are fundamentally built on material resources, human labor, and large amounts of our data. We don’t normally see how those resources are extracted, how they are put to use, or the impact they have on the environment. Alongside the low-cost or outsourced labor behind the manufacturing of technologies, there is another invisible workforce supporting big tech: As users and customers, we are also workers in the digital economy. The valuable data we provide to tech companies helps them build, maintain, and improve their products – and their business models. Behind our screens, there are millions of invisible actions required to assemble, maintain, train, and optimize the technology we use. When it comes to the data economy, who is working for whom?

Think about the commercials or advertisements you see for the newest phone or laptop. How often do you see the people – other than the designers – ...
If you happened to be looking for romance outside of your marriage pre-2015, the website Ashley Madison offered millions of users the chance to cha...
Earlier this year, the artist Joana Moll purchased a biography of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Amazon. She discovered that the website sent her thr...
Social media platforms can use technology to turn your interactions into valuable data that can help boost their profits. Data Production Labor ask...
Rare Earthenware is the product of a journey by Unknown Fields to trace the origins of the materials inside our technological devices. In collabora...
Paolo Cirio has documented over 20,000 patents for technological inventions submitted to the U.S. Patent Office. On the project’s website, Socialit...

Trust in us

The exhibits at this table explore the true cost of ‘free’ technologies. They suggest the impact of Big Tech’s business models and the way their innovations and working cultures impact users, consumers, employees, and society at large. As these companies have become subject to increased scrutiny, public trust has shifted and the conversation has turned to what kind of social contract we can demand from them. How can the powerful tech giants be held accountable when they “move fast and break things”?

Big mother

We often hear the ominous phrase “Big Brother is watching you.” But what about when you are kept track of by a more nurturing figure, more like a “Big Mother” looking after your wellbeing? When public institutions and private companies use biometrics, tracking, scoring, and profiling technologies to make our lives safer and more efficient, or to provide aid and care to vulnerable populations, how do we weigh the risks versus the rewards? There is a growing market for technologies that promise increased control, security, and protection from harm. At the same time, they can normalize surveillance at a macro and micro level – from the shape of a child’s ear to satellite images of acres of farmland. Often, those who need the most support may have the least control over how or when their data is being used. Who gains control and who loses it as we strive to reduce risks and provide more care for individuals, communities, and the environment?

Open the box

The artists’ projects and visual stories in this section reveal a variety of invisible ‘data journeys’ your information can take. Hands-on tools and short videos give you ways to see what your data looks like and how it is used on the ‘other side’ of the screen. Animations and interactive tools demystify digital processes, showing you what social media platforms and websites can infer about you. Why do you see one kind of ad in your feed while your friend sees another? Can you tell the difference between a fake or real tech product?

Other works