What made you decide to take part in Re:Humanism?
Before the contest, I had been discussing with Diletta Tonatto for a couple of months on the possibility to employ scents in an artwork. Our conversations eventually went out of track and weaved together. One day, we wondered whether our digital identities could have a scent. When I stumbled upon Re:Humanism, I found the opportunity to find an answer.
In “Me, My Scent” an AI created the perfume of your existence starting from the digital traces of your virtual activity, partnering with Diletta Tonatto. What sparked the idea to transform your digital identity in a sensory input?
The initial spark was definitely the sense of smell. This has an irrational and fleshly quality. AI, on the other hand, turns out to be cold and almost transparent. We liked the idea to weave together two contexts apparently distant.
In the description of your work you posed a very interesting question when saying that “anyone […] can access all the information about me (or my digital ego?)”. Do you, hence, think that with the advent of mass social media we are indeed living two lives – a digital and a real one?
No, with social media developing further these two lives of ours will merge. Actually, they already are one thing. It’s just that we users haven’t realized this yet.
In your artwork, you exhibited all your personal, digital information without censorship nor cuts, in what many would call a brave display of one’s personal life. However, not many people would do that. What do you think it’ll be of personal info and data protection in today’s hyperconnected world in the next, say, two to three decades?
This is a question extremely easy to oversimplify: we cannot deny that we’re moving towards a digital world which increasingly resembles a panopticon – although a panopticon with mirror glasses – and there is a wide lack of awareness for the use of our own data. The experience we have in the virtual universe is still incomplete. It satisfies only our eyesight and hearing, since it is tied to the screen, having next to nothing for our other senses. These two are the senses we mainly use (rationally). Hence, the personal data we provide are their reflections. Nowadays, it is relatively easy to process and control these bits of information, which become in turn a way to control the users. In the last 10 years, we witnessed a trend to give away our privacy and personal data. But this can change: in China, people utterly gave up their privacy, but the government – especially in these critical times – could not guarantee their safety. This is giving rise to feeble protests, a sign that we can reverse the trend. If we could get back all our senses, our carnality, our instincts which make us animals, we could hinder the deliberate use of our data. It could allow us to gain independence from the screen, which is not necessarily a refusal, but an aware and independent use. I consider AI as the sixth sense of the homo sapiens, but it should not be his primary sense. Otherwise, it is possible that in 20 years, talks of privacy would not make sense anymore. We could choose new paths and the digital world will guide us through our lives. Maybe it will not be our life as such, but it will be simpler. Culture, society, and geography have a solid influence in the possible future scenarios. The topic is very complex and should be developed.