// new media class

Maurice Wald — Neurons in the Machine // Human Intelligence Task

Carte Blanche — Summer 2022

Neurons in the Machine // Human Intelligence Task (©MechanicalTurk) draws on parallels between the understanding of the digital in cybernetics and digital labor, and engages with the materiality of a system where the matter seemingly doesn't matter; where repetitive machine tasks are outsourced to humans. Through the collaboration between Maurice Wald (Berlin), Juan Felipe Fernández (Bogotá) and Paula Londoño (Bogotá), sharing Fernández' and Londoño's experience as full-time click-workers, the video and performance installation deals with the exploitation of "digital workers" in a platformized system of global extraction of labor.

So called 'crowdwork' platforms and services were implemented, when tech companies realized that a lot of automizable and semi-automizable tasks and subtasks could be executed more efficiently, with a higher accuracy and/or at lower costs by humans rather than by machines through digital global outsourcing. Tasks like handwritten recognition and other recognition tasks (executed at lower costs), social media content moderation (high accuracy needed) and the creation and labeling of training datasets for artificial intelligences (to higher the accuracy and efficiency and widen the area of application of the algorithm and be able to then execute it at lower costs than through human labor - > downward spiral) as well as a broad area of tasks for other digital services like customer services and chat-bots are as part of a global chain of production of AI and other technological systems done by so called 'click-workers' or 'taskers'. Always competing with, being equalized with and being situated besides the algorithms within an intransparent and complex system of humans- and algorithms-in-the-loop and layers of algorithmic and human quality assurances and all present surveillance and progress controls, the human labor and the actual human becomes algorithmized and digitized as part of a cybernetic and only-digital system where merely the information matters. The human behaviour deviating from the algorithm becomes a glitch, the consequences for the human (like PTSDs developed through the moderation of violent images for social media platforms) becomes a bug. The human labor here gets extracted - bypassing worker-rights through globalization - and optimized through layers of quality assurance and surveillance from areas and countries where the socio-economic conditions are forcing people into the execution of the human intelligence tasks.

Over the course of a three day installative streaming performance in July 2022 at the UdK Rundgang, a 24-hour click-work twitch livestream was exhibited and captured where the informational input as well as the movements and deviations of the workers were translated into the algorithmic animation of an avatar - where the capturing algorithm is not able to grasp the human behaviour behind the digital labor besides the informational input resulting in the subtle glitching presence of an ambivance of the digital and the analogue.
For the Ars Electronica Festival 2022 the video material was installative de- and reconstructed, sculpural translated and remixed with livestream elements from Bogotá, on site click-work performances as well as talks and discussions asking us to reconsider our relationship towards the 'digital'.