Data and algorithmic objects

Initiated as part of the SWCTN Data fellowship it reflects on data and algorithmic power, the social and cultural impact and aim at critically influence and reflect on the latest Internet of Things development while it finds the way in the most private area of our life, i.e. our homes, our body. It deals with concepts like:

  • the Internet of Things (IoT), human and non-human interaction
  • digital sovereignty
  • data and algorithmic objects
  • cultural and social value and transactions.

The investigation was initiated in the format of regular Telegram chats with artist and hacker Jaromil from dyne.org, at the time of the first lockdown and in the inner exiles of our homes. We discussed of critical data, of algorithmic objects and how they can operate as props on a stage for open discussion and citizen participation. Making and playing with data and algorithmic objects, “Props”, would help answer open social and cultural questions.
The pandemic has, among the other things, revealed the centrality of data for our lives and how the data directly influenced policy and rules that affect our immediate life, i.e. lockdown.
But while it was evident in relation to the pandemic there were other situations where it is hidden and opaque.

<p>Image by Gianni Corino</p>
The false positive and the black box society 
"Predictive policing projects like these are explicitly biased and prejudiced and rely on data that is explicitly biased and prejudiced, but nobody does anything about it." Gabriel Geiger on Vice. 
One of the first algorithmic discrimination stories to be publicly reported by the UN, took place in the Netherlands, where some municipalities piloted a discriminatory predictive-policing technology that perpetuates ethnic profiling. Called SyRI (System Risk Indication), it was aimed at identifying fraud cases by cross-referencing personal data held by Government Institutions in the country. The Courts later established that SyRI uses a non-transparent black box process that ultimately led to many false positive cases that informed discriminatory social care decisions. The system has now been suspended but it publicly revealed the hidden management of new algorithmic processes, their flawed assumptions, and their ultimate implications. 
The dark room 
In line with the “The Paskian idea of a dynamically evolving performative relation between the human and the nonhuman” we want to explore some new emerging contexts and answer some compelling questions.  
  • How does a decentralised data management and ownership of personal data influence communication and interaction between humans and non-humans? 
  • How an art and design driven prototyping tool can support a participatory and social approach to data and the transparency of their transactions?  
The idea is to answer some of these questions by exploring the authors’ theory objects methodology and expand their usage to different contexts (stages). 
By creating context to stage, play and perform different kind of data transactions we want to explore the behavioural and the performative dimension between data, algorithmic processes in decentralised IoT.  
<p>A smart speaker sits on a shelf in a home alongside other decorative features.</p>

‘Ada’ is an open source ‘home assistant’, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. Based around the latest Raspberry Pi distribution, it links with an existing architecture of IoT components developed by IBM, such as the MQTT protocol and Node-RED IoT visual programming tool to further extend their capabilities. ‘Ada’ is an integrated open source and visual programming platform of AI, mixed reality, BigData and IoT technologies.

It has to be intended as a platform for developing speculative “Props” (data and algorithmic objects) that can be used by artist for installations and by designer as a prototyping tool and testbed for home automation and IoT application.

Dr Gianni Corino is an Associate Professor in Interactive Media at the University of Plymouth. His interdisciplinary research explores the idea of performativity, human and non-human connectivity, embodied and decentralised networks (i.e. Internet, Internet of Things) in relation to emergent cultural, technological, economical and participatory practices at the intersection of the physical and the digital.
SWCTN Data Fellow

<p>Gianni Corino</p>