I attempt to become a human version of Amazon Alexa, a smart home intelligence for people in their own homes. The performance lasts several days. It begins with an installation of a series of custom designed networked smart devices (including cameras, microphones, switches, door locks, faucets, and other electronic devices). I then remotely watch over the person 24/7 and control all aspects of their home. I aim to be better than an AI because I can understand them as a person and anticipate their needs. The relationship that emerges falls in the ambiguous space between human-machine and human-human.
What did you create?
I attempt to become a human version of Amazon Alexa, a smart home intelligence for people in their own homes. The performance lasts several days. It begins with the installation of a series of custom designed networked smart devices (including cameras, microphones, door locks, faucets, and other appliances). I then remotely watch over the person 24/7 and control all aspects of their home. I aim to be better than an AI because I can understand them as a person and anticipate their needs. LAUREN is a meditation on the smart home, the tensions between intimacy vs privacy, convenience vs agency they present, and the role of human labor in the future of automation.
Why did you make it?
We are being sold smart devices that outfit our homes with surveillance cameras, sensors, and automated control offering us convenience, at the cost of loss of privacy and control over our lives and homes. We are meant to think these slick plastic pieces of technology are about utility, but the space they invade is personal. The home is the place where we are first socialized, first watched over, first cared for. How does it feel to have this role assumed by artificial intelligence? A person’s home is the first site of their cultural education. By allowing these devices in, we leave the formation of our identity to a small, homogenous group of developers. The goal of this project is to raise these crucial questions and offer another way of looking at them. In the face of increasing replacement of humans by automated systems and artificial intelligence, I reclaim the position as omniscient watcher and controller of the home. I ask how feelings around surveillance, privacy, and intimacy shift when the viewer on the end of the system is known.
How did you make it?
LAUREN consists of a performance, website, custom software and hardware, a short film, a series of lenticular prints, and a media intervention online. People sign to “get LAUREN” via a website, inviting a one week performance into their homes. The performance begins with the systematic installation of a set of custom devices and configuring of their network. Once installed, the participant may summon me by voice command and I will respond to their needs and requests via remote control. I will also passively monitor them and try to anticipate their desires and take action. Modeling myself after a machine learning algorithm, I will try to learn from their responses and assist in their homes and lives even better than Alexa could. The devices were based on research into existing smart home and IoT devices, while exploring more human and imaginative forms and functionalities they may take on. The device objects incorporate cameras, microphones, sensors, and other appliances, and address the needs of the inhabitants by functioning as smart switches, lights, locks, environment adjusters, small appliances, and more surreal mechanisms of control. Custom software, which I built with Python and HTML, connects all the devices and allows them to be interactive and remotely controlled.
Your entry’s specification
Variable dimensions based on installation setting. Installation components may include: (1) set of four device sculptures, (2) set of four lenticular prints, (3) video on monitor or screen, (4) physical installation and performance. More info can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PQ3vvgzEFMcNVaWfmxGgLArh3EnTcAK1RAx8Sj8G7hM/edit?usp=sharing