Raised by Google explores the impacts of current data practices on our seemingly autonomous lives, investigating to what degree our opportunities and experiences are influenced by the underlying systems of a data-driven society.
Exploring the rapidly expanding behavioural futures market highlighted by Shoshana Zuboff in her book ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’, the exhibition circumvents the opacity inherent to these practices by placing the viewer within the mechanisms of ‘black box’ algorithms that underpin our daily lives. The show adopts processes and techniques prominent in the behavioural analytics industries such as psychographic analysis, microtargeting and the gamification of data collection. Psychographic microtargeting is a method of citizen profiling that goes beyond previous demographic segmentation by dividing groups into narrower subsets based on attitudes, interests, moods and dispositions. This level of extreme microtargeting has been made possible by large available amounts of big data, the availability of targeted media platforms such as social media, and advances in experimental methodology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Raised by Google utilises ‘Apply Magic Sauce’ (AMS), software created by Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Department. Created with the intention to put the user back in control of their data, AMS makes visible what is predictable (and therefore profitable) about you through your data. Using digital footprints, AMS predicts each visitor’s psycho-demographic profile - from age and personality to intelligence and life satisfaction.
As surveillance culture is increasingly normalised and data collection becomes more subtly ingrained with the arrival of 5G and the rapidly expanding Internet of Things, we are at a critical point to initiate conversation around the process, ethics and impacts of this practice. Although big data and behavioural analysis are still in their infancy in terms of best practice and usage, the negative impacts of psychographic targeting and bias applications are already being seen in individuals and larger groups globally. The exhibition seeks to raise questions and provoke critical thinking around what the impacts of this may be over time, when companies have access to not only our data, but our parent’s data and the data of future generations. If black-box algorithms are already playing a role in employee screening, health insurance and discerning crime risks, how will tracking this lineage over time influence predictive algorithms and their applications? Raised by Google is a call to action for the netizens of today to set boundaries that protect the freedom and autonomy of the children of tomorrow.