We are the Bots*
A Paradigm Shift: The Concept of Live Performing Arts and its Online Transmission
BARRIER-FREE – Our website is barrier-free from a technical point of view. With the M.zilla Firef.x browser you can also listen to the content through the reader view. The reader view is a feature that also allows you to change the text size, contrast and layout of the page for better readability. Unfortunately, there may be barriers here as well. We would like to ask you or someone you trust to reach out and let us know your needs. Email Link. We could for example send you a human voice recording of the content if necessary.
How do we want to deal with Bots*, as in Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence?
(* The term “Bots” is used here as an umbrella word for Algorithms and AI)
This research is about reflecting on how to achieve a non-hierarchical organic/non-organic cooperation between Bots* and people making Art…one day.
Due to the 2020 Pandemic Crisis, the majority of us were forced to migrate to the virtual space, and a flow of quick decisions was compulsorily required. The intention here is to review and reflect about the environment in which these decisions were made and the many questions that were raised, for example about the accelerated growth in the use of mainstream media without time to reflect on cause and consequence. We are being “digitalized” bit by bit as if this were a miracle solution to all our problems. Online or not to be? Is it only a binary choice? Key points explored here are: Internet ethics, digital sustainability, the digitalization of works/work in the field of performing arts and the human body interfacing with other non-organic bodies. One ecosystem influencing the other. A radical paradigm shift. A new emerging social reality.
This research is an attempt to analyze these challenges without fearing self-criticism and with the use of some necessary utopic content exposed in 4 Essays, 1 short Intermezzo – expressing the views of this author, some video interviews with specialists and colleagues expressing their views, and a Poetry Interface session where we can collaborate online, mixing up meanings and perceptions. The presentation online is designed to be text-based, intentionally simple, and free of cookies and trackers, meaning: “no surveillance”.
Biocapitalism and the digital mode of production work side by side. Therefore, we must / should be able to critically articulate our position and be aware of its importance for working conditions.
The Bots* learn from, with, and in spite of us. Inspired by the old Arabic wisdom phrase “We are what we eat” – I believe this applies also to the Bots*, as they are what we feed them. They are a collection of some of our data and reflect the values of their creators.
This non-academic research makes a plea: to keep the online interaction with each other thru self-determination. So, maybe it’s time for us to accurately inform ourselves about some of the tools and rooms that many of us are using on a daily basis. The aim is not to develop an empirical study or systematic research, but to exchange experiences, opinions/theses, and practical tips that can possibly support a more conscious use of online/digital technologies. The target audience is primarily artists, art educators, and their target groups.
This research was made possible with the support of a DIS-Tanz grant by Dachverband Tanz, (Funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media as part of Neustart Kultur – The Corona Relief Funds) and the most valuable collaboration of some concerned minds. For this, my immense gratitude.
Featured interview partners: Christine Mayerhofer – digital artist, creative producer and system developer, Daisy Kidd – Project Lead for the Youth and Technology project at Tactical Tech, NGO that investigates the evolving impact of technology on society, Laura Schelenz – interdisciplinary researcher with a focus on ethical and diversity-aware technology, Marco Donnarumma – performance / new media artist and scholar, Naoto Hieda – multidisciplinary artist and researcher, live coding performer, Peter Weissenburger – Journalist und Autor, editor for Society and Media sections at Taz Newspaper, Dr. Philipp Schulte – theater theorist and scholar, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolf Singer – Neurophysiologist and brain researcher. And small interviews with several colleagues.
Reading time 28 / 33 Min.
This is a research project with poetic license.
It is not an empirical or systematic study.
This is a not-for-sale investigation, displayed in an open digital environment with no cookies, and Creative Commons licensing of almost all the content.
This website displays the results of four months of work; this is not much, but for all I know this research could become obsolete even before I publish it, which is the reason I have concentrated in very recent sources for most of it. Shifts are happening faster these days, it seems. Just today (15.12 2020), some pertinent news regarding this research have reached me: 1) From tomorrow on – full lockdown, again; 2) Online media/social media is being further portrayed as a drug, as the potential drug of the future, affecting young people in particular. 1 3) Europe wishes to regulate the Big Data Co. 2 We are yet to understand exactly what is meant by “regulate” – democratization and resource fairness? Or mainly market guidelines?
You will need some time to visit this page and read it all, but navigate as you will and choose what sparks your interest. Each part of the research and the interviews are independent of one another, although together they form an entirety. You can also download an eBook or PDF containing the essays. The target audience is mainly Art creators/educators and their target groups, but there are many others who could also enjoy it.
As stated above, no cookies here (except for the single one that every page/web address must have) But what are cookies again? A cookie used to be a small kind of cake. Now, mostly, cookies are supposed to sweeten up our internet experience while storing our online surfing habits. No sweet cookies here, but rather the bitterness of some words and deductions.
The aim here is to expose the challenges around the theme, to exchange experiences, opinions, theses, and anti-theses as well as practical tips. All of the reference sources are displayed, but not necessarily using any accurate academic system. Around 16.000 words – a small research length + poetic interfacing, with no word counting. On the binary option: read it or breath it.
Ultimate intention: to leave diverse traces in the artistic/artificial neural network, which might help us to find a more mindful way of dealing with online/digital technologies.
The names of very famous companies and brands are intentionally disguised in the text, with ” . ” (dots) instead of vowels. For example G..gle.
How do we want to deal with Bots*?
(* the term is used here as an umbrella word for Algorithms and AI)
How should Bots* deal with us?
Notice the options used for the verbs here – “want” and “should”. Is this a non-biased choice? The complement to both questions is: from now on, with regard to 2021, after radical changes in our social life, since we have already been dealing with Bots* (and vice versa) for quite some time.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE ESSAYS
Exploring some of the relevant issues around online digitalization/digital transformation relating to live Performing Art (especially Dance/Music) and its mediation. The first Essay is actually, this INTRODUCTION. In the second Essay – INTERNET ETHICS & TECHNOLOGIES – what are the concerns regarding individual privacy online and supporting monopolies. Third essay- BODY ONLINE – what is the role of the human body as an online interface to other bodies. The fourth essay – ENCODE DECODE – is a mini-one, rather a short intermezzo: what are the possibilities for online and digital expansion of performing arts. The fifth essay – CONCLUSION & AFTERWORD exposes the conclusion. The “POETIC INTERFACE” session – is where you can make a poetic log entrance, complete a sentence, and /or add phrases.
Ontologically speaking, we are yet to agree on the classification of some concepts and terminologies, for example: “digital” and “online”. These two terms have been used interchangeably, but they are actually quite distinct. There is no “online” without the “digital”, but for a long time there has already been “digital” without “online”. Therefore, according to a brief and broad definition used by some media theorists, digital culture is what we create with our digits, as in fingers and numbers. And this is no short list, so there are variations on the significance of these terms, depending on the chosen field. The “digital transformation” is already happening, and nomenclature is trying to catch up with it.
For example, while reading the words of Art historian Jonathan Sterne about the term “analog”, it became all so clear to me how revealing language can be beyond its main function, and how much power it entails. Sterne wonders that by now everything that is not “digital” is called “analog”, but how could nature for example be called “analog”? The digital boom seems to be flattening the variety of terms and conceptions in favor of digital technologies. He argues that this is reached by establishing a point of comparison, “whether historical, ontological, aesthetic, institutional, or in some other dimension”, eventually it results in “the digital” as hyperbole on one side, and everything else on the other. 3
Analog is an abbreviation of “analogue” in French, meaning: “a thing that has characteristics in common with another thing”, descending from the Greek, Latin word “analogy” which means similarity. Clapping for example is real, a drum set is… not analog; a synthesizer is analog by trying to imitate a piano through the use of electronic technology and so are vinyl recordings, then came digital CDs and subsequent forms like Mp3 digital data.
The point here is that language is part of us, living vocabulary cells that keep transforming to re-form the new social body of signs from one generation to the next.
So, some terminology will be detailed here, some not. For the sake of time and poetry.
Some fundamental terms or notions to be elucidated are:
Algorithms and AI – An “algorithm” used to be something else in old Baghdad, but is now also a term for computer code – a set of instructions for software or social media, a preset, a coded recipe that is executed when it encounters a trigger. For example, “Y.uTxbe’s algorithm” for recommending videos to you, based on the information that you have “provided” through previous searches.
“AI” covers a large variety of specializations and subdivisions. Machine Learning or Deep Learning for example is what is mostly identified as artificial “intelligence”, where a group of Algorithms can write code that can write itself and create new Algorithms in response to learned inputs. This imitates our own biological neural network, creating artificial neural networks with the ability to learn, i.e. changing, adapting and growing based on new data. This is described as “intelligence” and as autonomous capabilities, although some experts refer to it rather as very complex high automatization of machines. One example: Language/speech recognition. 4
Social Quantification Sector / Data extraction / Big Data: Meaning “the industry sector dedicated to the growth of the infrastructure required for the extraction of profit from human life through data.” 5 This will be exposed further in the section Internet Ethics & Technologies.
HOW DO WE WANT TO DEAL WITH BOTS*?
To understand the question: Lately, my most proficient interfacing with Bots* has been with D.ep L. translator software. D.epL defines itself as AI assistance for language, training Artificial Intelligence to understand and translate text. No endorsement intended, and as a matter of fact, I would like to express some concern for all the jobs lost here, but the software is amazing and it really helps me. The improvement in accuracy and speed in recent years has been astonishing, however…
My dear D.epL “Soft” – ware,
I feel for you, asking me if I want to keep the translation for “Soul” in German always as “Seele” instead of “Geist”. I feel for you deeply. The answer is, and has been the same for as long as history exists: – I don’t know – no one knows exactly. I hope I can be more helpful in the future
A rather pathetic interfacing of sorts – the Deep Learning Bot* searching for an exactitude about something that has actually never ever been answered. As I switch off the option and D.epL stops asking, I ask myself what could be the lesson here?
a) Will it discard me as a not-knowing subject/object? b) Will it conclude something according to its high automatization regarding how to classify my interaction. Quantifying the percentage of my previous choices, and also how much time it took me to decide? c) Is there a “C” option?
I wish I knew more about it.
The subjectivity of my “#interpretranslations” about the word “soul” might be pushed aside due to imprecision and bias. Subjectivity is imbedded in cultural interpretation, mood, perceptions, skills and momentary conditions, depending on how much you have eaten and slept and lived. It is all a frenetic quantum physic dance of elements influencing each other in a zepto-second – the new world record in short time measurement registered here in Frankfurt, Germany in October 2020. A zepto-second is a trillionth of a billionth of a second: 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 001. 6 This unit of measurement is beyond our perception, but it suits viruses and Bots*, which are the reason for this research.
“On the other hand, nothing proves that man is the dominant creature on earth. Perhaps the viruses, and we are only material, a kind of pub for the viruses.” Heiner Müller 7
Contrary to the wishes of its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, the WWW is today dominated by a handful of quasi-monopolists who are forcing their agendas on us, and injustice, division, competition is therefore being carefully choreographed. But then again, from the beginning on the Internet was never for the common good – its predecessors were the mainframe computers of elite universities and research institutions, as well as some military projects. Commercialization began with the opening of the Internet to the general public in 1989. 8
In this research there are many questions about the Net… online or not to be?
HOW SHOULD BOTS* DEAL WITH US?
We cannot talk about online Bots* without talking about the four main omnipresent monopolists comprising the GAFA group – G…gle, Am.z.n, F.ceb.ck and Ap.e. Their commodities are airborne, like viruses. Hard WARE, soft WARE, a whole lot of WARE production designed to increase consumption. And thereby poisoning our environments – the real and the virtual. With the Corona pandemic, the privileged citizens of the world found a second house to pollute. No more plastic straws … instead the production of tools and gadgets to surveil society. From smartwatches and assistant slaves with female names to new smart fridges, they are all fundamentally designed to collect data about our behavior. Which song we hear and which milk we should buy. So, the majority of Bots* are already dealing with us, and not very ethically since they reflect the values of their creators.
1) We are often being surveilled through our interactions with online media technology 2) Interacting with the Internet and moving business online is not the solution for our climate problems.
These are new facts. Only two of them. Facts that are well established by some of our interviewees here, or by highly praised books or institutions such ” The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power” by Shoshana Zuboff, or “The Costs of Connection: How Data is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating it for Capitalism” by Nick Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias, the work of Tactical Tech, Chaos Computer Club and Netzpolitik.org, Digital Courage Ev, Bits and Bäume, just to name a few.
We are living in a world where technology is affecting every living thing. Technology is even capable of separating us for the sake of “connection”.
In this “post-beginning of the 2020 pandemic” we are delegating more to the Bots* and they are “learning” from our interactions. The more we stare at ourselves on screens, the more our skills and what is asked of us will change. It is mathematics. The definition of Performing Arts might change radically: To an expansion or diminishing of our abilities? To different competencies. Perhaps Live Art, Dance, Music, Digital Art – all of it will find new ways to expand themselves. It will look after its own future, expand beyond the gadgets we use, beyond relevance, beyond the system, and hopefully, from my part, beyond commodification.
Models of experience that have been developed in artistic practice are often reduced to commodities, for example, the TikT.k app and all its “dancers”. Here, user data is processed by Algorithms, and cyber-bullying of people with disabilities and political censorship is common. 9 Bio-capitalism and digital production methods working side by side. Therefore, we must/should be able to articulate our position critically and be aware of the impact of the development of the Bots*. After all, how we deal with Bots* is how they deal with us.
Paulo Freire, pedagogue and author once wrote: “To know is the task of subjects, not objects. And it is as subject and only as subject that one can really have knowledge. There is no knowing more or knowing less. There are different knowledges“. 10
Take embodied knowledge for example – essentially training-based knowledge (e.g., how to drive a car, how to dance) that cannot be completely described using words, but consists of dispositions for integrative perceptions, actions and reactions achieved by the body. 11 Automated driving is already on the horizon. The question is: what for?
So, what have we been learning lately from our interactions with the Bots*?
How has embodied knowledge, its perception and consequently its transmission online developed or changed in recent times? These are questions that will be further explored in the second part of the research – Body Online.
Almost all modern media theorists, from Marshall McLuhan to Paul Virilio, describe technology as an extension of the senses and organs. Are we extending our capabilities in these recent online exchanges with technology?
THE COLLECTION of OUR BEHAVIORAL DATA
The Bots* learn from, with, and in spite of us.
Inspired by the old Arabic wisdom phrase “We are what we eat” – I believe this applies also to the Bots*, as they are what we feed them. They are a collection of some of our data.
The Bots* reflect the values of their creators, which so far are predominantly white male supremacy dominated values, due to the inequality of accessibility to the “digital” from the beginning on. How can programming address matters of diversity, ethics and inclusivity? Do we want to reproduce online the views of the few privileged ones with their old, familiar prejudices and stereotypes? In a possible dystopian scenery – do we want to be “colonized” by highly programmed Bots* that regard us as vulnerable and eventually disposable?
It is difficult these days to break away from the conditions imposed on us by for example hyperbolic connectivity, because we are affectively attached to it, and not just economically or cognitively. We are “interfaces” to our beloved gadgets and their enticing effects. A human body networking with other bodies, but these connections are accompanied by an equally affective downside, with forms of melancholy, frustration, loneliness, depression or alternately strong feelings of being overwhelmed 12 e.g.FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out, which is a real disorder that permeates social relationships.
Our behavior and passions are being orchestrated and collected. This phrase is not meant to be poetic. “Any aspect of a choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way” is accomplished in a procedure known as “nudging”, as defined by behavioral economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in the book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” – a very real actuation of software engineering. What is meant by the term “choice architecture” are situations designed to focus attention and influence actions in the real world, often in real-time. Our behavior is being conditioned by different approaches and techniques – “We are learning how to write the music and then we let the music make them dance” 13 – a declaration by a software designer in the same book and rather sad use of Music and Dance as conceptions. Our emotions are being induced…
ENVY or SOCIAL JUSTICE ?
Globalization also means comparability of life situations. 14 Networked behavior influences the way in which we perceive others and ourselves. There is so much comparison displayed in the virtual environment. We unavoidably compare ourselves with others, with their achievements, their beauty, their wealth, 15 their number of followers and likes. Ongoing. When I say we, I refer to the significant number of social media users today. According to several sources, by 2021 there could be more than 4 billion users. We are purposely being exposed to extreme emotional content, and envy is also being artificially generated. In a way, this system wants us to become envious because it parades influencers as models of behavior and produces inequalities and injustices by the minute (or zeptosecond).
Anyhow, what to do with these emotions is always the decisive factor. Envy for example is systematically fed and then criticized, and it works well because essentially, we are all ashamed of our feelings of envy. In public, we suppress these feelings, but inside the net it grows.
Another “play” on envy being also transferred to the online territory – “Claims for social justice are just draped envy“; 16 a common neo-liberal argument. But accepting injustice and calling the ones who oppose it – envious, is far too sarcastic. If I were to ask: “in what universe is automated driving more important than saving lives in the Mediterranean Sea”, some real people and some Bots* might say that I am just envious of those who can afford “it”. Whether or not this is envy is not a relevant matter at this time. And shifting focus is precisely what I am demonstrating here – that is how emotion takes the focus off real issues. The overall relevant issue in our society is that inequality is out of control, 17 and these words precisely mean what they mean. Right now, what is really bizarre is to focus on other matters. This research for example.
..not if this research stimulates questions about our online activities, for the sake of reflection and to exercise citizenship.
…these questions when you post something online: Apart from me, who will benefit from it? What am I endorsing here? Perhaps use Sign.l instead of Wh.tz up app? Mastodon instead of Faceb.ok? How much energy consumption is involved here – from earth’s resources and from you, as one and the same? Why is mainstream social media so validated?
I hear a lot of: “One should develop social media skills”, but the question here is why? For whom? It may have started as a nice idea, but by now…. in mainstream platforms even if you see the post you shared in your newsfeed, you don’t know who else will get to see it. You can share it but you can not distribute it. The platforms “drive” you to pay for a larger distribution (ads) and play by their rules. You can buy “likes”. Everyone can buy a “thumbs up” or a “smile”. Algorithms simulating affection…for profit.
There are alternative platforms though.
On a personal note, I have no intention of displaying pedantic political correctness here. I make electronic music and before F.cebo.k I was already in MySp.ce. Meanwhile, I have more profiles than I can remember… but it is about time to question oneself.
FIND YOUR FEET
If Art works only for the sake of the market/online market, what really differentiates Art then? Terms such as “creative economy” or “creative business” are being used in ads from Y.uT.be to describe artists… 18
Lately, I have the feeling that we resemble consumable products in a virtual scrollable shop window. Tiny windows on smartphones and we are far too cheap.
“To work today is to be asked, more and more, to do without thinking, to feel without emotion, to move without friction, to adapt without question, to translate without pause, to desire without purpose, to connect without interruption.” Stefano Harney & Fred Moten 19
The majority of the privileged ones, like myself, are trying to adapt to the “comic strip story style” from the z.om boom: the distance, the masks, the filming of performances, the filming of classes, all for the common good and keep on working creatively.
The rewarding aspect of this research has been to see how many are engaged in reflecting and acting on these matters – theory and praxis. Some people who I invited had to refuse, some came to dance, and I am extremely grateful to all.
We need to be aware of the alternatives to the main”stream” when interfacing online. Cross the smaller rivers…There are decentralized open-source options and tools for interacting online: there are other rooms, other spaces and other settings. This is only the beginning, as it always can be. That is why I write all of this in the introduction – to spark your curiosity is my task.
At the beginning of this research, I felt rather incapacitated, disempowered and ashamed to ask about everything I didn’t know in this new dimension of all the organic and non-organic bodies online. I was feeling overwhelmed. I was feeling nostalgic about the days of concerts and dancing together in the same frame of time and space; I thought I might be having one of the worst generational conflict crises ever. Crashing my conceptions and accumulated knowledge, and having to make space for new learning. At the end, still overwhelmed, I feel thankful and encouraged to display this research.
Transitions are so complex for those who know how “things” used to be…
“Essay” means a try-out, a rehearsal. This one was the warm-up. Find your feet and off we go.
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
- Drogenaffinitätsstudie 2019″ der Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung – https://www.bzga.de/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF/studien/Drogenaffinitaet_Jugendlicher_2019_Teilband_Computerspiele_u_Internet.pdf – 2019 (BZgA)
- Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA)
- Ben Peters, “Digital Keywords- a Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture” – 2016
- The definitions were gathered from a series of sources including: The Aspen Institute, Wikipedia. com, & Webster’s Dictionary. Dr. Mir Emad Mousavi, etc.
- Nick Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias “The Costs of Connection- How Data Is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating It for Capitalism” – 2020
- Zepto-Sekunden: Neuer Weltrekord in Kurzzeit-Messung – https://www.muk.uni-frankfurt.de/93203632/Zepto_Sekunden_Neuer_Weltrekord_in_Kurzzeit_Messung
- Heiner Müller – “Da trinke ich lieber Benzin zum Frühstück” – 1980 – unautorized translation
- https://t3n.de/news/solid-www-erfinder-tim-955024/Solid: Wie WWW-Erfinder Tim Berners-Lee ein neues, besseres Internet plant – 02.2018
- Sam Biddle, Paulo Victor Ribeiro, Tatiana Dias – “Invisible Censorship – TikTok Told Moderators to Suppress Posts by “Ugly” People and the Poor to Attract New Users” – https://theintercept.com/2020/03/16/tiktok-app-moderators-users-discrimination – March 2020/
- Paulo Freire -“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” – 1968
- Thomas Fuchs – “Embodied Knowledge-Embodied Memory” – https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/fileadmin/zpm/psychatrie/fuchs/Embodied_Knowledge_-_Embodied_Memory.pdf – 2016 – unauthorized translation
- Rainer Mühlhoff, Anja Breljak, Jan Slaby – “Affekt Macht Netz-Auf dem Weg zu einer Sozialtheorie der Digitalen Gesellschaft” – Negri und wir – Jan Slaby – 2019
- Shoshana Zuboff ” The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” – 2019
- Karl-Heinz Nusser – “Ideengeschichte Vom Neid der Götter eines Phänomens zum globalen Neid” – https://www.kas.de/de/web/die-politische-meinung – Januar 2006
- Martin Hartmann – “Zur Verteidigung des Neids” – 2020
- Friedrich August von Hayek – “Verfassung der Freiheit” – 1960
- Oxfam report 2020 – https://www.oxfam.org/en/tags/economic-inequality
- For example in “Die Zeit” Newspaper 23.12.2020
- Stefano Harney und Fred Moten – “The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study” – 2013