[spectre] What the Robot Saw (a proper launch, at last!)

Amy Alexander plagiari at plagiarist.org
Wed Jul 22 02:56:41 CEST 2020

Hi all,

Finally seems a good time to give “What the Robot Saw” a proper launch.
(The project’s been online for awhile, but in these busy/strange times, I
paused for some other things.)

How to explain it? It’s a near real-time “endless documentary (and
mega-archive) of a social media robot.”  It’s a performative network of
videos curated by a contrarian algorithm, featuring unsensational videos
that commercial algorithms hide, focusing on personal narratives
(before/during/after(?) COVID-times). It’s AI/neural-net-generated, an
imagined robot’s perspective of the videos humans rarely get to see. But --
it’s “What the Robot Saw” as in “What the Butler Saw”* –  not “how the
robot saw.”

The film itself is a loose allegory about processes of representation in
the current moment, of selves performed for social media. Luciano Floridi
writes of these performed selves: “the micro-narratives we are producing
and consuming are also changing our social selves and hence how we see
ourselves.” What the Robot Saw is about the expanding human attempt to
depict and label ourselves and others according to performed appearances as
grids of pixels. It’s about media-making, neural networks, surveillance,
and performance awkwardly colliding. The collision happens at the point of
video fatigue, where the borders between our selves and our video selves,
and between surveillance and performance, have become almost invisible. It
happens in a culture so accommodated to identifying as two dimensional
grids of pixels in the shape of talking heads that large swaths of the
world recently began to “live in Zoom” (and YouTube) — and the transition
was managed within a matter of days. And it’s about how people are still,
of course, multi-dimensional humans despite all this; the robots’
superficial attempts at representation always fall short. But it can be fun
watching them try.

Have fun! It’s not sensational, and it’s not depressing!

What the Robot Saw:

Text *(explains oblique ‘What the Butler Saw’ reference and more!):

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