Google and Facebook know you better than your partner or your family – such was the claim touted by Silicon Valley years ago. But since then, big tech companies have amassed far more extensive datasets about each and every one of us. They have further improved self-learning algorithms that study our personality traits and enable them to predict our behaviour. But how predictable have we really become?
With the project MADE TO MEASURE, the artists’ group Laokoon has launched an artistic data experiment. Based solely on the analysis of data collected by Google on one person, they have created a real-life double in the form of a female performer. But outward appearance (alone) does not make a doppelganger; behind the data is a person replete with patterns, characteristics, desires, a sense of humour, weaknesses, fears and insecurities which Laokoon and the performer intend to bring to life.
By way of an open call, the group encouraged people throughout Europe in summer 2020 to request the release of their personal data from search engines and social media and make it available for a theatrical experiment. The digital theatre experiment reveals as never before the practices of ad-sponsored tech companies. With the help of these intimate insights into our personal lives, the billion-dollar online ad industry has succeeded in tailoring its advertising to individual people and tempt them when they are most susceptible. This can have dire consequences. Such “micromoments” in which we are most receptive to customised advertising are usually moments when we are especially vulnerable, insecure or disoriented. As we surf the web, scroll through our feeds and use our apps, we denizens of the digital age are unwitting participants in an automatised auction, sold off to the highest bidder.
Laokoon wishes to reveal the inner workings of this invisible auction house by means of an interactive storytelling website and enable users to grasp what really is on the line. When human behaviour is calculated, predicted and influenced down to the last detail, then how free are we really?
MADE TO MEASURE is a cross between a data experiment, a play, artistic foray and journalistic investigation. For this extraordinary project, the artists’ group Laokoon is working together with numerous experts, including data analysts, insiders from the online advertising branch, hackers, programmers and web designers.
A project developed by the artists’ group Laokoon in cooperation with the Federal Cultural Foundation and staged in analogue form by PACT Zollverein.
Artists’ Group Laokoon
Dr. Jeanne Bindernagel
Kulturstiftung des Bundes
06110 Halle (Saale)
E-Mail to Dr. Jeanne Bindernagel