Political pawns

06.07.2016 Tom Pearson : Algorithms : Avatars
Inside the Black Box (Supervised Learning) by Tom Pearson, London

London – Inside the Black Box (Supervised Learning) imagines a political system governed by a population of algorithms.

  • With the EU Referendum still uppermost in people’s minds, many will have asked: ‘what if everyone had voted?’
  • Inside the Black Box challenges the Western world’s technocratic tendencies with its black sci-fi humour

The subject of democracy is at the heart of artist, designer and recent Royal College of Art graduate Tom Pearson’s project, which imagines a political system made up of millions of proxy algorithms, each unique to every citizen.

The piece, comprising a film and accompanying props, is a critique of society’s obsession with algorithms and how they are used to gauge our identity so that they might predict our future behaviour. This is satirised in Pearson’s film in a dystopian research lab in which his digital avatar George undergoes training to make him vote the right way in a forthcoming referendum.

‘The black box is a device with parallels to the increasing complexity of political institutions and the public’s understanding of the workings of government,’ explains Pearson.

The Big Picture

Algorithms have the potential to grow in their sophistication when they start to include more emotional data. This complex relationship between identity and algorithms was the subject of Data Portraits, a series of animated GIFs created by artist Margot Bowman for car-maker Mini.

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