Algorithmic Pollution: Artists Working with Dataveillance and Societies of Control

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Lisa Moren

Abstract

In 2013, interactive artist and Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica winner, David Rokeby, coined the phrase Algorithmic Pollution to describe a phenomena where data collection alters human public behavior. The purpose of this article is to contextualize the topic of Algorithmic Pollution and artists working with data, surveillance and landscape. The inspiration came from the exhibition I curated in 2013, CYBER IN SECURITIES for the Washington Projects for the Arts in DC, at the Pepco Edison Gallery. The curation was completed just two weeks prior to Edward Snowden’s controversial leaking of security documents to The Guardian newspaper. CYBER IN SECURITIES reflects artists that have responded to massive data collection and the residual scrutiny of their private lives by creating artworks distributed through networks and systems that operate under their own control and rules. They’re also reacting to the transmission of that data in urban and natural spaces and its interactive processing with the human psyche and body. Artists have described this phenomenon as “environmentalized”, “a psychic takeover” and again, “algorithmic pollution”, altering our perceptions of our relationship with the environment both natural and urban.

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Essays