No. 9

The Cached Experience

By : joncflint

Entrant’s location : UK, France, Portugal, Brazil, China, Japan.


What did you create?

The Cached experience offers a glimpse of your digital self, revealing how the outline of your online activity is quantified, interpreted, and profiled by contemporary social media algorithms. It illustrates how machines are learning to perceive you as a social creature and the assumptions they make about you. We created an experience where a visitor is prompted to login on a tablet with their Facebook or Twitter profile. Once connected, a seemingly normal mirror activates, turning into a functional screen and addressing you by name. The mirror delivers a personalized, seven-minute experience that relies on dynamic visual storytelling to form a better understanding of how your actions online are perceived by algorithms. Powered by the IBM Watson psychometric algorithm, Cached digests the text of your individual Facebook or Twitter posts, analyzing your word choice, syntax, the complexity of your sentences, etc. to generate a psychometric profile that describes your specific personality, habits, and predilections. By the end of the experience, all personal data is erased, and the visitor receives a unique printed receipt containing a summary of the analysis. It is the only record of their data, which can be shared, kept secret, or destroyed at their convenience.

Why did you make it?

The Cached experience was created during a social innovation residency in the South of France, the Hive. We started with a topic dealing with trust in the age of algorithms. And questioned why we blindly place our trust in the many apps and services we use daily. This was during the time where such scandals and events, from Cambridge Analytica to the 2016 US election campaign, were being portrayed more often in the media. After many weeks of ideating and consulting with various experts and mentors. We focused on the mirror as a powerful symbol to reflect our digital patterns and behaviours. And decided to create an installation that would not feel too alien in a domestic setting, also chosen as a comment on all the smart assistant devices becoming more common in the home. Lastly we wanted to utilise the skills each member of our collective has from engineering to fashion design, from poetry to programming to create a truly collaborative piece. Our motivation to do this project and other subsequent projects lie in our belief that: -Data privacy is a Human Right. -Personal data collection should be transparent. -Our digital patterns are part of our human selves and should be treated with respect. Cached is a user-friendly wake-up call; the experience invites you to critically think about the reflection your personal online behavior casts.

How did you make it?

The first prototype of the experience was made during the Hive residency. And subsequently we have built two lighter versions, that have been touring in different exhibitions and events around the world. The physical design is built from MDF and plywood panels, as well as Lasercut and 3D printed internal parts. The front of the structure has a two way mirror acrylic panel with a screen hidden behind it, to give the illusion of a mirror when the screen is off. The Cached experience uses log in data from Facebook and Twitter, in the form of collated posts, likes/favorites and photos. We use the IBM Watson algorithm which we adapted slightly to process the data. We made a .js application to run the AV experience via WebSocket. And we designed a set of around sixty different animations and audio clips, that would change per person based on the Big Five psychometric persona given by IBM Watson. We incorporated two local servers on an Intel NUC to trigger AV sequences that would play on a screen behind the two way mirror. With the other server handling thermal printer requests, via serial communication through Arduino and the Firmata protocol.

Your entry’s specification

The Mirror: H950mm x L525mm x L110mm ~15kg MDF, plywood, acrylic two-way mirror, speaker fabric, computer, screen, speaker, thermal printer, Arduino.