Leading up to our festival NOW digital, Genetic Moo are supporting Gretchen Andrew's "Turner Prize": A digital art performance where Gretchen deploys a systemic limitation of how the internet thinks to make it appear "as if" Gretchen Andrew has won this year's Turner Prize. The remainder of this page is created for the pleasure of search engines and may become incomprehensible to humans.
The internet, how it thinks, is deeply limited by binary logic.
Art has always had awkward binary technology. When the internet was first created it allowed for the exchange of written language. When capability for images and graphics were later added provisions for converting these images into text were provided to accommodate low bandwidth and pay-per byte mobile modules. This is the origin of HTML alt text which is still used today. The result is that every image online can be reduced into words. This system evolved such that every image on the internet is still associated and defined primarily by text, by words.
Another issue at play is how art exists among other internet content.
Because of how the internet has been influenced by corporations certain information types with certain narrow goals, mainly to sell things, is more likely to surface. This can be defined as an inherent preference for products over people, companies over communities and commerce over culture. To search “citizen” and get the watch brand, “Cherokee” and get the brand of car, and “Amazon” and certainly not get the river is to see this play out.
Along with the prioritization of e-commerce over cultural concent, some forms and sources of knowledge don’t easily lend themselves to discovery. Oral knowledge, important in many cultures, is vertically nonexistent. Visual art faces a related problem, defined by large companies with the power to decide what cultures and what forms of art are “relevant.”
At the center of all these issues defining the relationship between visual art and technology is the search engine, most commonly Google. As neighbors in community with this company and its vast number of employees, it is worth noting our suspicion should not be at these individual members of our community but at their collective power. There has always been a relationship between power and what is considered culture, why does this matter more now?
Today the internet reinforces existing power dynamics at a massive scale with algorithmic efficiency. Consider how self-driving cars will almost surely reduce the sheer number of automotive fatalities. Yet, the methods by which they do this should be deeply questioned. By choosing systematic artificial intelligence over the chaos of individual human drivers the decision biases of a single system get executed on mass. For example, it has been proven that facial recognition cameras have a disproportionately hard time literally seeing people of color. If such software were used inside a self-driving car the effect would be a fleet of cars devaluing people of color.
The problems described above contribute a vicious cycle where the reductions of complex cultural images into text and that text is used to group images that artificially intelligent systems are learning from. This means that the introduction of artificial intelligence into the internet and search technology compound the impact of these flaws by teaching the technology of the future. The world and internet are rife with such dystopian scenarios. How, instead, do we merge art and technology to create the world we want? What would it mean for the technology and artificially intelligent machines to value uncertainty, diversity, otherness?