Pre-interview: Do Something Good

Images © DSG

In anticipation of their upcoming exhibition "blow_hot_and_cold" at Import Projects, we spoke with the New York based collective Do Something Good to find out more about the show and the group's diverse practices. The exhibiton is part of "FACT ≠ TRUTH", Import Project's series that attempts to untangle the problems of facing reality in post-factual and post-truth world.

 

What is Do Something Good and what does it stand for?

Do Something Good is an Incubation Collective primarily focused on realizing interactive experiences that arise at the cross section of art and technology; driven with the purpose of creating unique transformative experiences. The NYC based collective is comprised of 17 members around the world. With a wide range of backgrounds in fine art, product design, computer science, robotics and more, the group uses its diverse knowledge base to collaborate on groundbreaking new media projects.



How did you come up with the idea for this collective? What brought you together?

Over the course of the last ten years we all met and collaborated online on different projects. A lot of us met on forums or slack channels. What unites all of us is the drive of making things. Throughout our lives we meet a lot of creative people from all kinds of fields – and everybody has ideas they would like to make happen. Most of these ideas never get realized because the person with the idea doesn’t have all the skill sets or knowledge to create it. Our founding principle with DSG is to connect people with a wide range of expertise – from coding to design to robotics – so that all of us can do more good things.

 

What are the tools you use in your artistic practice?

No tool is off limits. It’s great to be able to work in a space switching back and forth between technology and art. An idea could come from something as seemingly dull as data science. Usually one of us is geeking out about some tech trend or topic and being naturally immersed in it eventually creates a spark. That leads to a lot of experimenting with the technology and often using it the opposite way it was intended.

 

Which topics are you mainly concerned with?

We are not really bound by a specific topic in what we do. In blow_hot_and_cold we are pointing out an observation we have made we agree needs to be discussed more widely and needs further investigation. It is about the nature of politics and public opinion online. Our global diversity allows us to explore topics ranging from digital identity, product design to romance in porn...

 


Image Copyright: dsg.do - Damjanski, Vasco Barbosa, Derek Evan Harms, blow_hot_and_cold, Import Projects, 2017

Can you explain us what the exhibition „blow_hot_cold“ is about?

blow_hot_and_cold is a kinetic installation that explores the relationship of individuals within a political system. The work creates a physical space between the virtual swell of opinion and the visitor. The work consists of a life-size politician mounted to a flagpole surrounded by eight fans. Four political issues are each represented by two opposing fans - one for and one against. In real time, an algorithm aggregates and processes conversations on Twitter around the four issues: social justice, refugee reception, EU exit and the ‘Energiewende’. The algorithm discerns sentiment from these texts, attributing wind force to each fan and as the sentiments towards the raised issue fluctuate, the direction of the flag shifts to face the opinion with the strongest support. The politician on the flagpole is Horst Seehofer, a german politician that has been active since 1992 and Minister President of Bavaria since 2008, he is often called #Drehhofer (turn, spin, twist hofer) commenting on his play with political issues raised and quick change of opinion.



Social platforms such as Twitter use algorithms to produce a certain climate - for example, they try to eliminate negative comments, fake news, violent propaganda etc. As much as it is welcome and needed, it obviously comes with a lot of issues - parameters that distinguish truth from deception and free speech from hate speech are highly questionable. What are your thoughts on social networks influencing reality this way? How do these issues play out in the exhibition?

We think that social networks have a huge impact on shaping our view of reality and in consequence change reality. Social media changed the way we consume information. Facebook’s, Twitter’s and Google’s algorithm started to curate people’s newsfeeds to keep them more engaged. In order to keep the user more engaged the algorithms display information the user most likely would interact with, an echo chambers is created. This filtered information largely support the user’s already existing opinions. Put some unserious news outlets on top and it gets really confusing. This has a direct impact on how our opinion is formed on for example the political. blow_hot_and_cold aggregates ALL conversations on twitter about four political issues and showcases what people think in real time. We ask what impact do tweets and retweets have? How do tweets influence the issue? Under these circumstances, what parameters should be used to identify truth, and deception, and what architectures/platforms are these parameters capable of building? Further, how can prominent existing platforms be objective tools?


Image Copyright: dsg.do - Damjanski, Vasco Barbosa, Derek Evan Harms, blow_hot_and_cold, Import Projects, 2017

What can we expect at the events that will accompany the exhibition?

In parallel we’re hosting discussions and talks. At tonights exhibition we will give an informal tour of the exhibition and engage in a Q&A with visitors and Anja Henckel the curator of Import Projects.

On Monday, 28 August, from 14.00-20.00 (6h intensive, 120€), we will host an Arduino Workshop for beginners to learn and realise the possibilities of making microcontroller kits for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control objects in the physical world. Sign up on info@import-projects.org.

On Saturday, 02 September, from 19.00, Elisabeth Wehling, a scholar in the field of is a political strategist and author working in the U.S. and Europe, will be in conversation with Damjanski (DSG) and a representative of algorithmwatch.org on the theme of Algorithm Rule.

The finissage on Sunday, 24 September, 19.00, Election day in Germany, will bring together a group of people, whose expertise lies in computing, art and journalism to discuss Knowledge production considering collecting, storing, and processing data for providing information and knowledge.

 

Are there any other projects in the making that you would like to announce?

We are currently creating a digital installation for the 9to5 Gallery in Atlanta. The month-long exhibition will focus on works that dissolve the boundary between artist and audience by way of emerging interfaces and technology.

 

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"blow_hot_and_cold"
24.08 - 24.09, 2017
@ Import Projects

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