Internet Ethics & Technology

⊕ German language

Reading time: 26 /32 Minutes

The complete research: English PDF German PDF


You’ll probably spend more than 100 days online this year“. On average, 7 hours a day.

In January of 2020, the “Data Portal Report” (website)  1 made this “prophecy” based on past reports. Meanwhile, we all know how it went in 2020. Many of us probably spent more than 100 days online. Perhaps unwillingly. Often unaware of the terms and conditions applying to some online tools. Perhaps handing over agency to a non-human “actor” and delegating tasks to the computer, primarily through our digits. “Digital Culture” some might call it. This “online living” can be very convenient as much as enjoyable, but it also creates space for technologies of surveillance, control and normative strategies.

We are more than 4.5 billion active internet users, equivalent to nearly 60% of the global population, as reported in January 2020. 2 In 2019, the philosopher and political scientist Achille Mbembe pointed out in his article “Deglobalization” 3 that this rapidly changing and ubiquitous virtual world brings new settings related to the distribution of power. On top of that, he states that the virtual “sphere” is also challenged by the tangible real world of our bodies and geographical distances.

As much as Digitization and Digitalization and later on Digital Transformation have been sold as “the” solution for many of our problems (and I myself particularly enjoy having a computer full of apps and tabs), the constant online presence that the actual Digital Transformation brings is more than challenging for us all, especially artists/educators. It entails a gigantic paradigm shift for the Live Performing Arts. But how much do we really know about these online/digital tools and virtual environments that are controlled mainly by Big Data corporations? Are they working for the common welfare of society as a whole? Or it is just about the business?


I came; I saw; I conquered“? No, not these ones…similar intention though. In our age, the 3 Vs stand for: Volume, Velocity und Variety. This is what Big Tech/Big Data corporations have to offer with their patented Algorithms and AI. These tools have the ability to objectively analyze huge amounts of various data within the shortest frame of time. The programming of these Algorithms, (i.e. what they will predict or manage) is initially defined by those who design them. To see the world through algorithmic glasses means to see what the Algorithms of the “X” platform wants us to see. Their analysis of our collective personal information is becoming omnipresent, and it deals with information and its distribution in a way that we can’t possibly keep up with.

Well, you can take amphetamines to run faster, but you cannot catch up with the speed of cyberspace. ” says the philosopher Franco Berardi. 4 We will have to try I guess.


Shouldn’t we know more about the consequences of what we share online?

In order to understand some of the decisions that we were forced to make due to the pandemic, (e.g. moving performances and classes to virtual rooms within the space of a few days), it is necessary to tackle the notion of Ethics within Algorithms and AI – the Bots*, the umbrella word for this research.

But what is (are) Internet/digital Ethics? Here, the word ‘Ethics’ is not to be interpreted simply as the friction between right and wrong decisions, but it goes beyond these binary patterns to make us understand and justify the choices we make amidst our use of Internet technology.

In this research that specially focuses on the Performing Arts and its transmission, what are the opportunities, the risks, the challenges and the beauty of “welcoming” online digitalization into our practice? “Therefore, we all need platforms that we trust to keep communications and data private” says Internet researcher Laura Schelenz. (Link to Interview – Frau Schelenz).

In Europe, as a reference, a great shift in this was due to GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation from 2018, created in order to give Data Subjects such as ourselves more control over our personal data with key clauses such as the right to access our data, delete it, and most importantly the right to be informed about how data is stored and used. For example:


We are informed about the services that are being used within our browser, but the list of cookies we are now fed when visiting a new site is becoming truly dubious. Visit researchgate for example (if you’ve never accepted their cookies before in your browser) and you will see a near-endless scrollable list of cookies and tracking tools. Many of us end up accepting all of these cookies, instead of only the essential ones or none at all. The juridical complexity of it all makes even experienced specialists shake their heads in doubt. Transparency looks different. Anyway, since internet technology is affecting our lives in an unprecedented way, there is no way out. We must all achieve some algorithmic literacy, and definitely take care of our rights in a more engaging way, as many of the interviewees also defend here. Link to interviews


Online/digital technology is not here to be interpreted as good or bad or even less …neutral, as defined in the first “Kranzberg’s Law,” which describes the function of technology in society. The second clause of the first law states that “technology can propagate disparate outcomes” 5

Therefore, when combined, the two clauses suggest that machines and programs are simply as impartial as the humans who create them. There are many problems related to data collection and how to counteract the assimilation of our personal data into the capitalist production of commodities. By the way, shouldn’t the benefits of all technologies be felt by all of us? As Donna Haraway wrote some time ago „Technology is not neutral. We’re inside of what we make, and it’s inside of us. We’re living in a world of connections – and it matters which ones get made and unmade. 6

As we were trying to come to terms with the pandemic in 2020/21, we saw how our sleeping rooms became our broadcast rooms. Even if remote working & studying saves the costs of the real space, we pay the costs of the virtual room….and we pay a lot! Mainstream online companies are being portrayed as salvation, as extension tools for our work, and slowly but surely the machines are absorbing part of our labor. This is not a conjecture of a dystopian scenario, it is happening. These mainstream companies are the norm. Aral Balkan, cyborg activist and developer wrote: “The mainstream of technology today is a toxic spillover of American laissez-faire capitalism that threatens to engulf the whole planet.” 7


In most “contracts” with mainstream online platforms, we click to accept the terms and conditions believing that this will make our lives easier and more convenient. We accept all of the conditions and slowly that bad taste in the mouth when we “sign” something without reading it, seems to disappear. We did this with our energy delivery, water services and so on. We accept their terms, where we are their clients. However, in the online contracts our position/status is defined by law not as a client but as a Data User Subject (…”Data Subject refers to any individual who is using our Service and whose Personal Data are processed as a consequence of using our Service…”). In these contracts, the user is actually the product. Interviewee Laura Schelenz reminds us – “the service is not really for free, you are paying it with your data”.

If you want to find out how much data can be actually gathered just by your smartphone – watch this video on Vimeo – “The Life of Balthazar Glättli Under Surveillance” by Open Data City.


Through our computer, mobile phone, and other digital devices, we leave behind hundreds of digital traces (also known as data traces) every day: bits of information that are collected and stored. Every “move” we make – literally – every choreography, every song, all of the metadata that we share becomes data information – data flows directly into a few server farms owned mainly by out-of-proportion digital giants such as the GAFA group (Go..og. /Amaz. / Fac.eb..k/ App.e). What is being farmed there is us, Aral Balkan reminds us 8

They are the farmers, and the real clients are the companies trying to convince you to buy things you probably don’t even need through a procedure known as “nudging”. We consume social media for our own purposes and social media companies consume us for theirs. These monopolists are becoming quasi-state actors that set rules of social conduct. The pressure to regulate them more democratically is growing, at least in Europe.  And it’s about time.

5 simple steps to take more control over your data. 
+ ALTERNATIVE tools and platforms, email, chat apps, maps, search
Me and My Shadow
by Tactical Technology Collective is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


In her 2019 book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”, Shoshana Zuboff, social psychologist and philosopher writes: “Under surveillance capitalism, (…) machine processes replace human relationships so that certainty can replace trust. This new assembly relies upon a vast digital apparatus, world-historical concentrations of advanced computational knowledge and skill, besides immense wealth.” Zuboff states that the goal of a few power holders is to keep surveillance capitalism alive with omnipresent and pervasive intervention and control. 9

Know thyself “, the first maxim of the Oracle of Delphi, seems to be obsolete now – the Algorithms know us better“, writes the psychiatrist and philosopher  Thomas Fuchs in his book “Defence of Humanity – Fundamental Questions of an Embodied Anthropology” from 2020. He also argues that we are becoming a product of data. 10


We are the §INTERF§ACE§$_§I<… from the I to the A to the I, all online. Along the way, consuming an enormous amount of energy as well…how else?

The carbon footprint of our digital appliances, internet usage and the systems that maintain them is already estimated to be around 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Comparable to the volume generated by the aviation industry worldwide, according to Mike Hazas, a researcher at the University of Lancaster. 11

Ailton Krenak, indigenous leader and historian says: “When I do my check, I’ll find out that I’ve left waste, garbage, that I’ve produced things that I’m not able to handle their final destination. And every culture that leaves traces is unsustainable.”  He adds: “This financial capitalism no longer needs the materiality of things, it can turn everything into a financial fantasy and pretend that the world is active, (…) instead of us imagining worlds, we just consume the world.”  12


Maja Göpel, political economist and transformation researcher, says:” For some reason, more digital is good per se. This must be stopped. Some benefit more, others less, some digitise, others are digitised. This must be understood and made comprehensible as a social and political process. 13  Göpel states that digitalization is a dynamo of multiplication and consumption, but the technological innovation agenda leaves out social and environmental issues.

Economic inequality is out of control. (…)The richest 1% of the world have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. ” These are the opening words of the Oxfam briefing paper from January of 2020. 14

So, for whom are we “working” when talking about “Digital Transformation”? Bio-capitalism and network politics working side by side for profit. The technology that serves these purposes is often deceptively simple and friendly in its operational mode. And on top of that, the very seductive apps, working through Algorithms and AI to keep us “addicted”: “Share your video”, “go live now”, even into emptiness…with no audience, to try to gain more followers, to be supposedly more accomplished.

The most powerful forms of political relationship are those that express themselves in a re-coding of signs“, says the philosopher Franco Berardi. 15 “Share”, “like”, “love”, “follow” are recoded signs… The “anthropomorphic machine” – the humanoid robot as well. Berardi again: “Technological development has not yet freed us from work. On the contrary, we are more stressed and more precarious than before. (…) Cognitive work has created the technological conditions for liberation. But instead of liberation, capitalism creates a separation between the corporeality of the masses.” 16


Should we all know how to write code? I don’t know, but we all should definitely get some guidance regarding the technological development of the virtual world, beginning from an early age. Daisy Kidd tells us about her work with Tactical Tech and the guides they create for and with the youngsters. Upon further interest – interview with Daisy Kidd

Data Detox x Youth is an activity book to help young people (and older ones) take better control of their tech. Available also in Brazilian Português, Deutsch, Español, Italiano, Nederlands, Norsk, and Shan. Thank you in this instance

We delegate agency to the Algorithms, accepting automatization as part of our lives. The invisible part is indeed hidden in a so-called “black box” part of the software. But we need more transparency. The system (in this case the monopolists of Big Tech) exercises a sort of algorithmic violence with virtually no regulation or serious consequence. Not yet. Wild World Web.

Around the beginning of our millennium, Jean Baudrillard, philosopher and cultural theorist wrote: “the social is now a special effect. The appearance of networks converging on an empty site of collective happiness produces the special effect”. 17 How to see behind the effect is the question. So, to gain some literacy in our dealings with Algorithms means actually to learn from trusted sources, to ask people who deal with it, without fearing the appearance of being ignorant. Check the interview with Christine Mayerhofer (online – in German). To know that most of the time open-source online tools do not look as updated and are not as easy to use as the “special effects’ tools”. But it is worth it, also to acknowledge the work of some of the real cool minds that are around. 


Unethical technology is poison to our human-cyborg-nature-all things’ rights, toxic to our well-being and our democracy to say the least. It is not about making Bots* our passive servants either, as this is anyhow a horrible notion, but rather about reflecting on how to achieve a horizontal non-hierarchical organic/non-organic cooperation… one day. Co-existence. A necessary Utopia? Can there be truly renewable resources of energy?

“Cruel Optimism” is a term coined by theorist Lauren Berlant to describe a particular emotional structure – clinging to the unattainable, against all odds and against one’s better judgment. A paradoxical contemporary condition that is becoming all too familiar. 18

What differentiates sustainable online technology from non-sustainable online technology?  As always, it depends on how we choose to create and use technology.

Streaming for example also has a great impact in our environment. Five billion views of just one music video – the 2017 hit “Despacito” consumed as much electricity as Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic combined in a single year. “The total emissions for streaming that song could be over 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide” says Rabih Bashroush, a researcher at the University of East London and senior researcher in the European Commission-funded Eureca project. 19

 While many of us enjoy ‘carbon privilege’, the majority of us don’t. The world’s poorest 3.5 billion people contribute little to carbon emissions but are most affected by climate impacts such as floods, storms, and droughts.” (…) The world’s richest 10% of people were responsible for more than half of the carbon added to the atmosphere between 1990 and 2015. 20 - How many trees does it take to power the internet? Five steps to reduce your digital footprint


Aral Balkan, a Cyborg activist, offers alternatives that can enrich the range of our choices – ethical website designs, programs from open source platforms (decentralized, open, accessible, secure and “more” sustainable). 21There are designers, journalists in the field of AI, data and network policy working for a more balanced online environment.Ethical as in opposition to “smart”, or weaponizing design, which deliberately aims to obscure intentions. In Aral’s opinion, “smart” is just a euphemism for surveillance.  22 And it uses a lot of energy. Ethical Design Manifesto


We are becoming a “digital diaspora of artists“, as Art’s manager and researcher Beth Ponte says, with “an unplanned mass migration of content and cultural experiences to the digital environment.” However, she explains, as much as the wave of digital transformation is taking over, it also brings a need to rethink infrastructures. According to UNESCO, the other side of the “digital push” that is happening (especially during the Pandemic crisis) is the even bigger ” digital gap”, exacerbating the lack of access to digital culture for disadvantaged groups/societies. 23

In the article “What Now (Was Nun)?”  from October 2020, historian Peter Funke writes that the corona crisis and its limitations, which will probably last for a long time, has deeply affected the arts in general, since it is precisely in this area that social proximity, the public sphere, encounters and direct experience are needed.  24

We will all have to redefine encounters, redefine intention and priorities.

+ How do you think “data governance” should develop for example? How should we regard data in the near future: as something you don’t even know to be giving away?  As your own property that can also be sold? As a commodity that cannot be sold? As a democratic collective resource and/or… .  25

Live Performance Art is moving towards the virtual space, and although this is defined as a temporary measure – how temporary and how reversible it is, nobody knows. It’s time to be concerned about the virtual room, the space we are “moving” to.

Out of physiological reflex, I’d say stop going online all together, at least for a while migrate backwards, but … I am afraid we have already entered a world of generalized “hegemony” in which everyone has become both hostage and accomplice of the global market. However, it is still a personal choice to at least question it.


1) Personal reflection as a catalyst!

2) Sharing to display solidarity, without demanding personal data in return.

3) Publishing it online with a clear non-mainstream choice of aesthetics.

Even if poetic resistance is the only thing to offer – here we go:


My hidden algorithmic ignorance leading me to a sense of inadequacy…millionx of tabs in my head – trying to search for a more sensible searching engine and planting trees browsers. Me_Inter_facing unwillingly long, accepting more cookies than I can have in a lifetime with the tip of my tongue – a lunatic data user subject trying to mess with the predicting-behavior-DeepLearning-farms. Will my profile add to a wider&diverse library of human characters? Will it only help to cause harm? Or will it be discarded as part of a minority that is on the verge of extinction? Out_Data_ed.” G.R.

Link to Poetic Interfacing

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Footnotes - no specific academic system: ⊕ Author's name and surname (if available) ⊕ Oeuvre / Link ⊕ Day and/or Month/Year ⊕ No hyperlinks here. ⊕ *BOTS - the umbrella term for this research = Algorithms and AI
  1. – 2020
  2. Partners: “We Are Social”; “DataReportal”; “Hootsuite” – 2020
  3. Achille Mbembe – “Deglobalization” – Eurozine 18.02.2019
  4. Anna Stiede – “Interview Franco Berardi – „Unser Hirn leidet “  – Freitag .de –  May 2018 – unauthorized translation.
  5. Melvin Kranzberg, “Technology and History: Kranzberg’s Laws Technology and Culture” – 1986
  6.  Donna Haraway – “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature – 1991.
  7. Aral Balkan – Kulturstiftung des Bundes – September 2019
  8. Aral Balkan – See11 Conference in April 2016
  9. Shoshana Zuboff – “The Age of Surveillance: – The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power” – 2019
  10. Thomas Fuchs – “Verteidigung des Menschen – Grundfragen einer verkörperten Anthropologie” – 2020 – unauthorized translation
  11. Sarah Griffiths – ” Why your internet habits are not as clean as you think” – – 06. 03.2020  
  12. Fernanda Santana ‘Vida sustentável é vaidade pessoal’, diz Ailton Krenak  – – unauthorized translation.
  13. Peter Unfried und Harald Welzer – “Maja Göpel im Interview: Verbote können Menschen befreien” – Taz die Tageszeitung –!169655/ – Dezember 2020 – unauthorized translation
  14. – January 2020.
  15. Anna Stiede – “Interview Franco Berardi – „Unser Hirn leidet “  – Freitag .de –  May 2018 – unauthorized translation.
  16. Anna Stiede – “Interview Franco Berardi – „Unser Hirn leidet “  – Freitag .de –  May 2018 – unauthorized translation.
  17. Andy McLaverty-Robinson – “Article: Jean Baudrillard: Hyperreality and Implosion” – August 2012
  18. Rainer Mühlhoff, Anja Breljak, Jan Slaby  – “Affekt Macht Netz – Auf dem Weg zu einer Sozialtheorie der Digitalen Gesellschaft”  – Negri und wir – Jan Slaby –  2019 – unauthorized translation.
  19. Sarah Griffiths  ” Why your internet habits are not as clean as you think” – – March 2020. 
  20. Carbon inequality is driving us to the climate brink” – – 2020.
  22. Aral Balkan – Kulturstiftung des Bundes Magazin – September 2019. 
  23. Beth Ponte – ” The Cultural Enviroment” –
  24. Peter Funke – “What Now (Was Nun)?” – 30.10.2020  
  25. Salomé Viljoen – “Data as Property?” – – 16.10.2020