23rd Art Division Social Impact Award
Lauren Lee McCarthy [United States]
Gallery visitors are invited to act as a human version of an AI assistant. Four participants’ homes have been installed with custom-designed smart devices, including cameras, microphones, lights and outlets. They are connected to a command center, featuring four computers, in the gallery. When the homes are “on,” the gallery visitors can peek into the four homes via laptops, watch over them, and remotely control their networked devices. Visitors may hear smart home occupants call out for assistance—prompting the visitors to step in as their home automation assistant and respond to their needs. The relationship that emerges falls in the ambiguous space between human-machine and human-human. The work is a meditation on the smart home, the tension between intimacy and privacy, and convenience vs agency that it presents, and the role of human labor in the future of automation.
Reason for Award
In SOMEONE, the viewers take upon themselves the role of an AI device, like Amazon Alexa, to virtually experience the lives of four groups of people. By having people conduct themselves from the standpoint of AI, the work attempts to bring about a critical visualization of the relationship between people and this technology, that has taken on such a pervasive and embodied presence in modern human life. Making appearances through sound and video, the residents address someone unseen to them to effectuate automated forms of everyday life. The intimacy with which people address this someone may approximate their relationships to those among close family members who greet them when they return home. Might such anthropomorphized interfaces, on the other hand, have the capacity to give rise to new relationships between people and technology? Who might it be that we are addressing? Who might this someone be? New questions such as these that have emerged in modern life are brought into sharp relief here. (TASAKA Hiroko)