In the exhibition Total Noise, Marcus Mårtenson has been inspired by our contemporary and technological society and how it affects us. The communication society that we live in today has enormous advantages and is very convenient; but there is another side of the coin: our integrity. Social media like Instagram, Facebook, Google and other internet platforms, store and use the information that we provide them with by our user behavior.
Marcus Mårtenson has studied research by Shoshanna Zuboff, professor at the Harvard University, and the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, 2018. Zuboff shows us how this machinery is run by AI (Artificial Intelligence). The ultimate goal of these information collecting systems is behavior modification. When the collection of our own biometric data is combined with our online search and shopping patterns, it becomes easier to understand our feelings and predict our choices. Thereby making us accessible to manipulation. The technology has become a capitalistic surveillance system. Suddenly we are living in the Big Brother society described in George Orwell’s dystopia 1984, published in 1949. There, as well as here, the observation of the people has become a threat to the integrity of the individual. Instead of Big Brother, Zuboff defines it as the Big Other, a digital society where we, more or less willingly, give away our personal data and information.
The applications in our smart devices are designed to generate a need and an addiction, with a reward system not unlike a slot machine. Notifications with sounds call for attention and with a stimulus and response reaction the apps make us feel falsely included. In Mårtenson’s artwork Hot Trigger he pictures the obsessive behavior that the applications in our phones create. In Digital Twin, he illustrates the digital traces and how identity psychographics are created by the behavioral content linked to his Instagram profile. With sharp irony and criticism Mårtenson creates a visual analysis of our social infrastructure, that makes us question our own digital behavior and utilization.
Internet is free, available and convenient, the digital advantages are huge, and it leads to a general acceptance. Over time there is less resistance and we accept the agreements without even reading the small print. But maybe we are able to see through the targeted marketing so that desired effect becomes the opposite. The new EU-regulation the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is supposed to give us more information and control over how our data is used and stored. Will it help us as individuals? The future will tell.