a text by Annamaria Merkel and Emilia Tapprest

“We are the products of our relationships, which are increasingly mediated by the photographic image” (Adapted quote from ‘Radical Alterity’ (Baudrillard, Guillaume 2008).

Since our millennium is defined by technological mediation, pixelated faces illustrate our identity –an amplification of biased social codes such as gender and race. How might we imagine something beyond? We are at the dawn of ubiquitous computing. Networked sensors are currently being embedded into our bodies and living spaces. But does datafication has anything socially valuable to offer?

Let’s fantasize; envision a time ahead of ours – a second stage of the current paradigm shift in human-computer interaction (HCI).

An ocean of embodied data, combined with advanced AI, gave eyes and ears to our digital nervous system. Simultaneously, countercultures had become disillusioned with image-dominated media. While Amazon went on expanding smart cities, these groups of hacktivist began re-appropriating the same infrastructures for intimate communication; removing social identifiers by abstract streaming’s of our living bodies.

Members of the public were able to experience each other from their private places or immersion arcades. Articulation as such altered and went beyond binary codes. Imagine: skin conductance, pulse, breathing, brainwaves, gesture recognition, mediated touch…all this expanded our communication with and through artificial systems and created immersive experiences by reflecting data of physical presence. This was the rise of ambient, nonverbal forms of communication! Gender interactions, social realities and their normative modes, power structures and balances, codes and games we play…all that got transformed into a synergy of different virtual selfhoods. We created our own social bodies. A novel era of alienation!

As the user base grew, the most successful prototypes were commodified by larger organizations and new commercial platforms emerged – like ambient versions of Chatroulette.

With this development AI’s got infiltrated into the system to extract user data and nurture their deep learning systems with human interaction, feeding a worthwhile market of Data-economy.

Now –in human-to-human platforms– it’s hard to tell whether a new friend has a human body or consciousness at all.