BG Annual Conference 2018 | November 8-10 | ZK/U – Center for Arts and Urbanistics | Siemensstrasse 27 | 10551 Berlin

How can we rethink political agency in an AI-driven world?

As everyone and everything is interconnected in our environment, politics as we know it is turning into a new game. Already, tiny ruptures can cause cascade-like repercussions – think of cyber-attacks or stock market crashes, right-wing resentment or hashtag-based protest. Such ambient revolts are increasingly driven by artificial intelligence (AI) – involving human interaction but seemingly beyond human oversight. As this development obviously signals a deep crisis of liberal democracies, the AMBIENT REVOLTS conference suggested this crisis as an opportunity to reinvent political agency, facing critical questions like: what does it mean to rethink human agency without sufficiently knowing and understanding the agency of AI? The Berliner Gazette conference explored these issues with lectures, workshops and performances. Here we present the results: videos, projects, audios and photos from the three-day event.

I. Videos

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Conference round up

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Dan McQuillan (researcher + activist)

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Evelina Gambino (researcher)

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Sandi Hilal (architect + researcher)

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Dia Kayyali (activist)

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Matthew Stender (researcher)

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Aude Launay (curator)

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Kim Yong Hun (artist)

These videos were produced by the Berliner Gazette team: Nick Jaussi, Juliane Rettschlag, Magdalena Taube, Andi Weiland and Krystian Woznicki. More videos from the AMBIENT REVOLTS project, featuring Alina Floroi, Michael Prinzinger, Tanja Sihvonen, Nicolay Spesivtsev and Dzina Zhuk, can be found in our video album.

II. Projects

AI Reality. Your Reality.

Once upon a time, capitalism had turned most of its operations into an AI-driven matter, with self-learning algorithms operating silently based on discriminatory categories. With neural network energy feeding generators humming in the background, a small band of self-proclaimed AI influencers gathered at the Ambient Revolts conference: coders, activists, artists, researchers, etc. Their mission: to tackle questions of how discrimination plays out in capitalism’s automated processes and to intervene in the junction of AI-driven automation, dehumanization, and discrimination. Check out their fictitious company by clicking here.

Disrupting Smooth City AI

Our everyday activities and urban environments are becoming increasingly mediated by self-learning algorithms. Mediation through AI-driven decision-making is often operating beyond our awareness. So, has it become entirely impossible to regain agency in the smooth city? At the Ambient Revolts conference three groups worked collectively to analyze the phenomenon of AI. Starting from the idea of a backend that suggests that processes are beyond our awareness or visibility, they turned to the idea of hacking that suggests that disruption of the smooth experience of AI is possible. Check out their projects by clicking here.

Uncommon Dreams

During the three-day collective work process of the Ambient Revolts conference, a design for a space came into being, a game, and a curriculum that explored the way that AI and algorithmic technologies assemble us into “communities” in ways we are only just becoming aware of. But before the work, there was a lot of (day) dreaming. The workshop groups attempted to command their dreams, to tell them about the impact of tech companies on our collective unconscious, to escape the sorting, parceling and categorizations that we currently live with and through. But whose dreams are these anyway? Check out their projects by clicking here.

For Better AI Literacy

To discuss and address the connections between artificial intelligence and right-wing populism, the workshop groups at the Ambient Revolts conference developed three projects which explore these complex issues. A poem was generated from a large, AI-processed corpus of extreme right-wing speech. Another poll-based AI-generated word project recombined phrases sourced from the attendees of the conference workshop. Other participants collaboratively wrote materials for distribution among activists, journalists and politicians, with an eye on advancing data-based media literacy. Check out their projects by clicking here.

Robot Teachers

Experiences are central to learning, which is why for this workshop project the group devised a social experiment. The Ambient Revolts workshop participants addressed the ultimate question: Should your life be structured by AI without your agency? There have been spectacular advances in the field of AI in recent years, leading to inventions we never previously thought possible. Computers and robots now have the capacity to learn how to improve their own work, and even make decisions based on rules that have created themselves. How will this impact human learning and education in general? Check out their projects by clicking here.

III. Audios

Putting Broccoli into Artificial Intelligence

“I am the broccoli that the companies and authorities have to eat!” Dia Kayyali pointed out, referring to the work their organization does when reminding governments and tech companies of the consequences their technologies might have for human rights. At their talk, Tanja Sihvonen and Dia Kayyali gave a general introduction to the political dimensions of AI in social media.

To listen to the talk – moderated by Sandra Mamitzsch – click the play button.

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Artists challenging Intelligent Machines

“We trained our own AI to classify animals, showing the absurd sides of machine learning”, Kim Yong Hun explained at the second public talk. Dzina Zhuk in turn took another approach to Artificial Intelligence and machine learning: unboxing the “smart” infrastructure of her hometown Moscow, showing just how little we know about the machines that co-create our daily lives, our relationships, etc.

To listen to the talk – moderated by Claudia Núñez – click the play button.

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Further reading: Dzina Zhuk’s report “The Politics of AI in the Smart City” (in GER) here.

The Hidden Labor in our AI-driven world

The third public talk moved onto new ground. Exploring the politics of Artificial Artificial Intelligence (AAI) in mobility regimes, Sandi Hilal’s work in Palestinian refugee camps and Evelina Gambino’s research into the New Silk Road revealed the hidden human labor in seemingly fully automated circulation processes, putting up for debate the relationship between agency and labor.

To listen to the talk – moderated by Krystian Woznicki – click the play button.

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Further reading: Krystian Woznicki’s report “Challenging Logistical AI” here.

IV. Conference Program

The Hidden Agenda of AI | Nov 8 | 7:30 p.m.


Do self-learning algorithms have their own agenda for a better world? Two speakers will look for answers: Dia Kayyali (US) works on tools and policies that help human rights advocates safely, securely and ethically document human rights abuses and expose them to the world. Currently focuses on abuses in AI-based content moderation in social media. Tanja Sihvonen (Finland) researches digital media, computer games as well as participatory cultures on the internet. Her current work on AI and algorithmic agency in social media raises critical issues of gender bias and ethics. Moderated by Berlin-based political consultant and net activist Sandra Mamitzsch, this talk will put the hidden agenda of AI up for debate.

This talk will take place at ZK/U on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. Limited seats, free entry.

Artifices of Intelligentsia | Nov 9 | 7:30 p.m.

The AI-driven world is supposedly getting ever more intelligent – but intelligent for whom? Two up-and-coming artists will look for answers: Kim Yong Hun (South Korea) of the art collective Shinseungback Kimyonghun created the “Animal Classifier” – an AI trained to divide animals into arbitrary classifications to foreground the imperfections in algorithmic classification systems. Dzina Zhuk (Russia) who with Nicolay Spesivtsev (Belarus) is co-founder of the art group EEEFFF, contextualises digital city infrastructure in the context of complex and autonomous AI systems. Moderated by L.A.-based journalist Claudia Nuñez, this talk will explore artistic strategies in a techno-social environment of runaway bots, AI bias and digital trash.

This talk will take place at ZK/U on Friday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m. Limited seats, free entry.

As a warm-up to this public talk the artist-driven artificial intelligence SAZAE Bot (Japan) will stage the performance “sleeping bot”, exploring the algorithmic unconscious.

Challenging Logistical AI | Nov 10 | 3 p.m.

What does it mean to challenge Logistical AI? Two researchers will discuss possible answers: Evelina Gambino (Italy) undertakes grassroots inquiries into logistics – today the largest playing field of AI-driven circulation –, focusing on the movement of labouring bodies and objects as well as the spaces they create. The architect and researcher Sandi Hilal (Palestine) works on education in refugee camps, empowering the invisibilized actor of the circulation management regime as a political subject in his or her own right. Moderated by Berlin-based journalist and critic Krystian Woznicki this talk will explore how to organize within and against AI-driven forms of logistical power that has the capacity to engender spaces, politics, and subjects. This talk will take place at ZK/U on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 3 p.m. Limited seats, free entry. As a warm-up to this public talk, the workshop groups will pitch the results of their two and half day process: position papers, multimedia stories and experimental projects. After this talk please join the closing performance The Other Side of AI with choreographer Pepe Dayaw (Philippines) creating a dinner and artist Melanie Gilligan (UK) showing her film “Popular Unrest”.

V. Workshops

Register and join

This open call for registration targets (up-and-coming) hackers, journalists, activists and researchers. A limited number of participants is able to register by contacting the following email: info(at)berlinergazette.de. Deadline: October 20. Please note: As the five workshops will be running in parallel, everyone is invited to commit to a single track. On November 8-10, the workshops will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The conference hosts will provide catering throughout the entire conference, including a warm lunch.

Explore

To tackle the key issues of the conference, five parallel workshop tracks will offer five different approaches for a pragmatic critique of citizenship as a framework for political participation, addressing the following issues: “Re-Coding Populism?”, “Challenging the Capitalocene”, “Involuntary Community”, “Unlearning Learning”, “Hacking the Urban Backend”. The conference workshops will bring together more than 100 activists from all over the world. The BG will invite key actors from the international scene to form the core of the five workshop tracks, and will issue an open call for the general public to register.

Collaborate

The workshop groups will communicate before the conference in order to flesh out the workshop design collaboratively. Led by experienced group leaders, participants will be invited to come up with possible answers to the questions outlined in this project paper. The results will be made available as online resources via berlinergazette.de: they may include position papers, multimedia storytelling projects and collections of ideas. Check the workshop results from the previous BG annual conference and find photos from the workshops here.

Re-coding Populism?

Right-wing populism (and populism in general) thrives on AI-driven social media, which amplifies the voices of the extremist few rather than the voices of the many. Can the top-down logics of demagogy be reversed or even recoded for democratic ends? This workshop tackles the rise of right-wing populism in the context of social media and explores the potential of proto-populist bottom-up approaches such as liquid democracy. Guests: Tatiana Bazzichelli, Zeljko Blace, John Borland, Susanne Braun, Antonia Burchard-Levine, Masha Burina, Juan Caballero, Anselmo Canha, Adriana Homolova, Dia Kayyali, Inga Lindarenka, Yonatan Miller, Zoran Pantelic, Marta Peirano, Jaron Rowan. Moderators: Evan Light & Christopher Senf.

Involuntary Community

Under the conditions of all-encompassing interconnectedness, right-wing populist moods can spread in a quasi-contagious fashion. What role do system errors, glitches and other (planned or unplanned) disruptions play in this context? Can the surprise element of unforeseen (dis-)connectedness gain a political valence? This workshop explores new potentials for emerging solidarity and community. Guests: Iskra Geshoska, Eva Gonçalves, Stephanie Hanna, Jacob Hühn, Aude Launay, Victoria Martínez, Riho Matsuda, Julia Molin, Sara Moreira, André Rebentisch, Matthew Stender. Moderators: Cassie Thornton & Max Haiven.

Unlearning Learning

Self-learning systems define our age, thereby also conditioning the domain of learning. AI-driven social media are coming to provide pseudo-classrooms. Meanwhile traditional media are losing their authority as ‘educational institutions’. What is the present and future of pedagogy? What kind of unlearning needs to be done vis-à-vis self-learning systems? This workshops explores the politics of (un-)learning in the context of AI and self-learning systems. Guests: Kerry Bystrom, Laura Burtan, Júlio do Carmo Gomes, Géraldine Delacroix, Alina Floroi, Andrada Fiscutean, Anja Henckel, Monisha Caroline Martins, Penelope Papailias, Catherine Sotirakou, Rachel Uwa, Erik Vaněk. Moderators: Claudia Núñez & Cristina Pombo.

Challenging the Capitalocene

Capitalism has turned most of its operations into a quasi-automated matter. If algorithms operate according to discriminatory categories (race, ethnicity, gender, etc.), then how does discrimination play out in capitalism’s automated processes? What are strategies against dehumanization? This workshop tackles the connex of automation, dehumanization and discrimination in AI-driven capitalism. Guests: Phoebe Braithwaite, Evelina Gambino, Friedrike Haberman, Gosia Jagiello, Katrin Kämpf, Hans Lammerant, Sonja Peteranderl, Rebecca Puchta, Brett Scott, Çağrı Tașkın, Elena Veljanovska, Harsha Walia, Anna-Esther Younes. Moderators: Abiol Lual Deng & Ela Kagel.

Hacking the Urban Backend

In today’s smart city the urbanite is challenged to negotiate her/his entanglement with the programmed environment. What does this mean for political action? Is public space still available or is the arena of political intervention being relocated to the invisibilized backend of the city? This workshop politicizes the rise of the smart city and searches for means of appropriation. Guests: Zarinah Agnew, Tekla Aslanishvili, Marc Böhlen, Jose Miguel Calatayud, Ellen Koenig, Matthew Linares, Juliane Rettschlag, Nicolay Spesivtsev, Gabriele Schliwa, Andreas Schneider, Jill Toh, Niloufar Vadiati, Xin Xin, Dzina Zhuk. Moderators: Nina Pohler & Michael Prinzinger.

VI. Information

Further Reading

Selected texts and interviews by/with AMBIENT REVOLTS conference participants and organizers: an interview with Louise Amoore about The Politics of Artificial Intelligence, an interview with Max Haiven about The Politics of AI-driven Financialization, Krystian Woznicki’s essay Okay, Trump, mach mal (in GER), Krystian Woznicki’s report Challenging Logistical AI, Dzina Zhuk’s report The Politics of AI in the Smart City (in GER).

Live Photos

The photographer Norman Posselt accompanied the AMBIENT REVOLTS conference, documenting with his camera the workshops, the performances, the public talks and also the cooking, the walks and the yoga. All photos from the conference have been published here, where also AMBIENT REVOLTS warm up events have been documented. You could also have a look at other Berliner Gazette photo albums or at our previous annual conference FRIENDLY FIRE.

Social Networks

The journalist Adriana Radu curated the Berliner Gazette twitter stream. Her tweets and all other postings using the Hashtag #AmbientRevolts can be viewed here. If you are interested to keep in touch, you can follow the BG on twitter or on facebook.

Online Debate in German

Debate online: Essays, interviews and reports covering the most pressing issues of the AMBIENT REVOLTS debate are published in the Berliner Gazette (in German). With contributions by activists, thinkers and artists. Have a look here: berlinergazette.de.

Venue

The ZK/U is a laboratory for inter-disciplinary activities centered on the phenomenon of the city. Its work is informed by theoretical and practice-based critiques developed in disciplines such as geography and anthropology. It promotes exchange on global issues in the light of what is happening in one’s own backyard. Working with local and international partners, residencies bring together critical minds at the intersection of artistic production and urban research. Address: Siemensstrasse 27, 10551 Berlin. Look at this map.

Organizer

The organizer of the conference is Berliner Gazette (BG). As a nonprofit and nonpartisan team of journalists, researchers, artists and coders we analyze and test emerging cultural as well as political practices. For more than 15 years we have been publishing berlinergazette.de under a Creative Commons-License – with more than 900 contributors from all over the world – and also organizing annual conferences and editing books. Mail us your suggestions under: info(at)berlinergazette.de

AMBIENT REVOLTS is the 18th annual conference of the Berliner Gazette. It will take place November 8 – 10, 2018 at the ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics in Berlin. This project is a cooperation with ZK/U and it is funded by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education/ bpb, Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

AMBIENT REVOLTS – all texts on this website are written by Berliner Gazette. All images, except in the Public Talks section, were taken by Berliner Gazette (Norman Posselt, Andi Weiland and Krystian Woznicki). Creative Commons License: cc by nc 4.0.