[-empyre-] Brief Intro

Ben Grosser grosser at bengrosser.com
Wed May 6 08:49:47 AEST 2020

Hello Everyone,

Byron asked me to start with a brief introduction to my work...

I focus on the cultural, social, and political effects of software. What
does it mean for human creativity when a computational system can make its
own artworks? How is an interface that foregrounds our friend count
changing our conceptions of friendship? Why do we become emotionally
attached to software systems and what does this attachment enable for those
who made them? To examine questions like these, I construct interactive
experiences, machines, and systems that make the familiar unfamiliar,
revealing the ways that software prescribes our behavior and thus, how it
changes who we are.

My primary artistic research method is one of "software recomposition," or
the treating of existing websites and other software systems not as fixed
spaces of consumption and prescribed interaction but instead as fluid
spaces of manipulation and experimentation. Many of my works are browser
extensions that get in between the user and the systems they use every day,
enabling them to critically examine their own experiences with software.
Examples include Facebook Demetricator (hides all metrics across the
Facebook interface), Go Rando (obfuscates how you feel on Facebook),
Safebook (Facebook without any of the content at all), and ScareMail (tries
to make your email "scary" to the NSA). Other works examine algorithmic
agency, including Computers Watching Movies (shows what a computational
system sees when it watches popular film), and Interactive Robotic Painting
Machine (a robot that makes paintings while considering what it hears as
input). Sometimes I set code aside and work on/with video or sound. My
recent film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE is a good example: it’s an epic supercut
drawn from every public video appearance made by Mark Zuckerberg from
2004-2018. I extracted each time Mark spoke one of three words: "more,"
"grow," and his every utterance of a metric (e.g., "one million" or "two
billion"). The result, which is nearly 50 minutes long, chronicles Silicon
Valley’s obsession with growth over the last fifteen years.

As a long-time lurker I’m happy to be part of this week's activities, and
look forward to discussions around Byron’s framing, the role of social
media platforms in the pandemic age, the coming push for increased
surveillance, and, perhaps, the effects of metrics at a moment when so much
reporting is "by the numbers."

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