Polluted windows desktop, Sacha Assi & Thalia Kassem, Paris, 2018
Deep Face & Digital Ecologies
Teaching with Mathieu Merlet Briand
This is a required core studio for junior AMT majors that provides a hands-on and speculative support lab to introduce the basic technologies, concepts, practices and workflows of interaction, sensorial design, art performance and participatory media. Structured to complement and assist the projects of the Core Studio, students evolve their understanding of production and troubleshooting and develop their own skills within contemporary and professional standards. Students will be working iteratively along a variety of assigned projects.
Each student will identify two specific fluencies they wish to develop; one familiar, the second new and/or unfamiliar. Students will evolve their understanding of production and prototyping and develop their own approaches within contemporary and professional standards. They will be expected to apply techniques learned in this lab to projects being executed in the affiliated Core Studio 3: RESPONSE. Guest specialist advisors will contribute throughout the semester according to the scope of student projects and areas of concentration.
Students will be asked to work two main subjects — Deep Face and Digital Ecologies.
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A view that often prevails when talking about digital systems is that these are immaterial. The idea of a separation between matter and digital space results from poorly theorized research that has been undertaken by many writers and essayists and researchers. John Perry Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace describes the digital space as immaterial and free from all of the political and legal stances of non-digital space: “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. (...) Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.”1
Depicting the digital as immaterial is not only inaccurate but highly problematic, because the heavy infrastructure that supports digital systems is overlooked or swept under the rug in most conversations and discourses about the digital. Sending emails, tweeting, watching Netflix or mining bitcoins depends on a vast IT (Information Technology) infrastructure constituted by networks, servers, data centers and different types of devices distributed around the world. Ten minutes watching a cat video on YouTube emits 1 g of CO2, while mining a bitcoin emits 8,000 to 13,000 kg of CO2.2 In 2015, worldwide IT systems were responsible for 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is similar to the share of emissions generated by air travel.
1 A declaration of the independence of cyberspace, John Perry Barlow, Davos, February 8, 1996. See imate-change
2 These estimates were calculated according to the data made available on a coal-powered Bitcoin mine in Mongolia. This single mine is responsible for 8,000 to 13,000 kg CO2 emissions per Bitcoin it mines, and 24,000–40,000 kg of CO2 per hour. See https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/ article/ywbbpm/bitcoin-mining -electricity-consumption-ethereum-energy-climate-change
This assignment will focus on the myth of immateriality/dematerialisation, asking students to create objects that materialize and visualize the ecological impact of digital systems and networks on the environment.
As an example we can imagine design-oriented projects in which one data visualizations informs users about their ecological impact after one week using their smartphone and/or personal computer.
But we can also imagine more abstract outcomes — for example, a big scale installation featuring tangible elements whose real weight represent the carbon emissions of bitcoin mining or Netflix binge-watching in a certain country, city or time frame.
The outcome can be a multimedia installation (featuring digital or non- digital technologies), on-screen data visualizations, websites, videos, documentaries, photography, drawings or any other format.
How to create awareness on the digital ecological impact?
How to make digital carbon footprint visible/tangible?
How to design greener/ecological digital interfaces?
List of subjects / techniques
Digital and algorithmic surveillance
Face tracking methods
Digital and tangible prototyping
Art & Design References
CO2GLE by Joana Moll
Prise en Charge by HeHe Collective
Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16’W) by Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta
CarbonScape by Chris Cheung
Wellograph by TehranPlatform