Industries of Prediction Margins of Freedom

Just look at that lone bird stuck in the grey blue sky. She is alone, and probably totally bored. She is free to move as she likes, but she is simply surrounded by too many options. It’s like the sky is a humongous menu.

Any free spirit, left alone with a computer will learn where to go, who her friends will be, who to date, what news articles to read, what to buy, and most of all, she will never be alone because she will be monitored, tracked, and known by an infinite amount of anonymous servers and eyes. As an internet user, she becomes familiar with a perfectly customized template for how to make a good life especially for her– she’s given all the tools to create a perfect bubble of safety and individualism, constantly reflecting her own choices and ‘values’ back, and introducing more users together who like the same sorts of things. And when so many people are existing as loners in space guided by algorithms of the internet, learning about prediction tells us about how personal choice and responsibility exists (or lays dead), and thus how our democracy works or doesn’t work.

The tools that make movement and autonomy possible are disabling our own perception, shrinking our world view through customization. During Tacit Futures, we took prediction as a material to work on and with. You’ll see that we worked on it through interacting with it, poking it, trying to get out of it, trying to find the difference between the perception that the algorithm gods have given to us and our own. What would it take to think what we think independently of the control of our news feeds, friend suggestions, and product suggestions that shape our experiences. It feels as if we are all playing a game, and the rules keep changing. We don’t know who else is playing, or whose game it is. Did we choose this? Did we choose our friends? Are we here because of an algorithm or because we should be? We are inside of a kind of bubble that keeps us focused on ways of knowing and living that seem like choice but that may not be. As a group we turned in many ways towards trying to experience different forms of choice, divination, randomness, chaotic forms of sharing or moving. We developed three parts, three separate games that may result in one thing.

Divination is seen as religious, or from the unknown. It’s a way to make choices when we can’t, when there is too much chaos, confusion, and too many choices. There is a way that we respect predictive algorithms control of our actions, our choices, when operated by corporate states– as if they are divine, supernatural, or natural. But as we all know, all of our compliance generates profit and surveillance. We are not the consumers, we are the consumed.

The Workshop “Industries of prediction, margins of freedom” of the conference Tacit Futures of the Berliner Gazette at Volksbühne, 27-29/10/2016, invited people from all over the world to explore the fields of prediction. They came up with three ideas: “With Or Without You!“, “Breaking The Prediction” and “The Omen Engine“.

With or Without You” is a playful web based project, imagining utopian / dystopian life scenarios with or without technology.

With the project “Breaking The Prediction“, the group provides different tools to break out of the filter bubble and to see life as more than the reflection of your digital self.

The Omen Engine is a revolutionary tool to trigger the most unpredictable futures – enjoy!.

With or Without You

“With or Without You” is a playful web based project, imagining utopian / dystopian life scenarios with or without technology.

Using the model of a decision tree, you are here occupying the position typically taken by machines – navigating complex possibilities through a clear structure to foresee final outcome. Within this story built from binary decisions, you may ask yourself how much choice exists at all within a binary decision? As we lose middle ground, potential futures seem to be reduced towards either a complete embrace or complete refusal of technology.

The challenge is – how do we retain our humanity and agency within the context of technology. The scenarios may develop into utopias or dystopias depending on the point of observation. Maybe space, time, and personal perspectives tend to give us a negative or positive orientation.

Can we find a middle ground in between the binary? Is there any possibility for atopia?


Breaking Prediction

Breaking the prediction

(Photo from: LadyDragonFlyCC under CC BY 2.0)

While browsing the internet, you leave lots of traces online: data that is collected, stored, analyzed and profited from. As a worker, a consumer, a financial datapoint, a facebook liker, an online activist, or a tweeter, your choices are the source of analysis and prediction. What you do and where you look is tracked and used to make assumptions about your desires, your habits, your possible plans, and that of the people who are ‘like’ you. That means: you are living in a “filter bubble” (Eli Pariser) with all the people that like similar things as you. Along with your cohort of similarly clicking people, you see what you are supposed to see, meet who you are supposed to meet. You are traced wherever you go. And: You still get recommendations about a new fridge although you already have bought one.

The question therefore is: Do you want to be predictable?
If not, you have to break the prediction.
But: How?

Option A: Get to know the algorithms that feed the prediction. You have to gain knowledge about which data are used, how the data are combined and analyzed, and how it is controling or tracking you. Who cares about the colour of my shoes, and who cares about their size?

Option B: Disturb the algorithm by becoming someone else. Create an imaginary online persona, which browses the internet instead of the real you. Use it for your online journeys, let it leave more traces, let it become predictable – and then switch to another person.

1. A Random Identity Generator

The identity generator enables you to create an identity which allows you to see through a the eyes of a fresh new identity profile. Explore the internet as a typerwiter enthusiast cyborg from Australia. What would she google? Who is her favorite politician and where does she buy her shoes? We ask you to create a public profile for this new imagined being, explore and watch how the algorithms respond, and the new filter bubble tries to surround a playful, erratic and collectively authored being. Starting with a random identity generator, you will take on the occupation, location, and interests of a new internet identity. Once you become this new profile, take a google survey (located at the bottom of this page, called ‘questions for the new you’) to help you think through their needs and make a path through the internet. Your new identity will become publicly available, so anyone can become this profile, offering a place to play, experiment, and to go undercover. Once you become a new internet user, take this survey:

2. Questions for the other You

3. Sharing existing Accounts

“To be someone must be a wonderful thing” Paul Weller, 1979
Under the personalized filter bubble in 21st century, you must become someone outside of your filters to experience diversity, to escape yourself, to be surprised. How can you truly see the eyes of the other?

We suggest that you find this person, and log into their social media account.

Following slides show the basic idea.
Through the location information of each “account contributor” who want to share the account, this product will connect users to each other.

Is to be someone a wonderful thing for you?
“Who are you? Who, who, who, who?” Pete Townshend, 1978

The Ωmen Engine

By Juliane, Yuka, Stefan, Andreas

Omen Engine from Berliner Gazette on Vimeo.

Are you interested in the future? It’s already there…Welcome to the Ωmen Engine.

A collection of thousand of years old wisdom from all over the world. Ask your question to the future and immediately get the answer from this revolutionary tool.
By clicking here the Ωmen Engine opens for you to investigate all sorts of oracles.

You will see an interactive diagram presenting 3 factors on 3 circles that can be rotated against each other.

The inner circle shows triggers and tools of prediction. The center circle lists practices and rituals of prediction. The outer circle contains all sorts of issues that predictions answer to.
To operate the Ωmen Engine rotate any of the circles to bring your most favorite term to the top. Three words create a pattern that becomes a starting point for your personal divinations.
To challenge your mental defaults the Ωmen Engine provides a link to a deep, opaque, impenetrable, unfathomable thesaurus – a black-box that feeds on the many traces we can not cease to leave in the universe.

Should any of the Ωmen factors not suit your current purpose, just reload until future and expectations align.

We collected a few references – a modest start…
Click at any card to see details

Credits

These projects were collaboratively created by Junichi Akagawa (founder, Mirrativ, Tokyo, Japan), Alina Floroi (founder, Laborazon, Bucharest, Romania), Yuka Fukuura (researcher, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan), Nina Hälker (researcher, HafenCity University, Hamburg, Germany), Riho Higashida (correspondent, Berliner Gazette, Tokyo, Japan), Nakano Hitoyo (artist, Sazae Bot, Tokyo, Japan), Cory Levinson (data analyst, SoundCloud, Berlin, Germany), André Rebentisch (founder, meshcon.net, Berlin, Germany), Juliane Rettschlag (student, Berlin Institute of Technology, Berlin, Germany), Andreas Schneider (director, Institute for Information Design Japan, Tokyo, Japan), Koji Takahashi (editor, uploadmag.org, Tokyo, Japan), Cassie Thornton (artist, Feminist Economics Department, San Francisco, USA), Stefan Tiron (artist, Bucharest, Romania), Niloufar Vadiati (researcher, HafenCity University, Hamburg, Germany) and Beata Wilczek (artist, ESMOD, Berlin Germany) at the Workshop “Industries of prediction and margins of freedom”, facilitated by Lilian Masuhr (activist, Berliner Gazette, Berlin, Germany) and Michael Prinzinger (activist/coder, Berliner Gazette, Berlin, Germany).

The workshop took place at the TACIT FUTURES conference hosted by Berliner Gazette in 2016.

The content of this project is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.