By Giancarlo Buonomo, For the Daily
Published October 28, 2013
In even a brief look at the website for Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico’s project Art is Open Source (AOS), the word “activism” immediately comes to mind. Click here, and discover how Iaconesi and Persico, both native Italians, created a smartphone app that directed protesters to safety during the 2011 Occupy movement protests in Rome. Click there, and meet Angel_F, a digital baby whose right to unlimited information was brought before the United Nations. Everything feels straight out of “The Matrix,” without the kung-fu sequences.
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So, are Iaconesi and Persico the Neo and Trinity of the art world? The Daily sat down with the artists after they gave a lecture for the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series.
“In all of our art, in general, we really tend to be non-judgmental,” Iaconesi said. “Obviously we have an opinion, but our interest is not to expose this opinion. Our interest is to expose mechanisms, how things work.”
In a world that has increasingly become a complex technological network, AOS tears off the comforting blanket of advertising and instant gratification to educate everyone on how technology influences our lives, or in some cases, becomes our lives.
“It’s like water infrastructure,” Iaconesi said. “When you turn on the water in the sink, you don’t think that you are producing pollution from the pipes.”
“So,” he continued, “technology has basically disappeared, and it has become a part of our common life, a utility.”
Technology is an ubiquitous utility of modern life, no doubt. So ubiquitous in fact that it raises some interesting, and possibly uncomfortable, questions. For example, can someone have a “real” identity and a digital one? AOS claims that that there isn’t much of a separation.
“Digital technologies have made the idea of identity liquid,” Iaconesi said.
Added Persico: “The possibility to express ‘multividuality’ is enormous now.”
However, this fluidity is not limited to the “real” world versus the digital world. According to AOS, “multividuality” is present in the “real” world all the time. The modern “multividual” can be one person with their boss, another with a friend, another with a professor and it’s all a result of rules.
“Imagine how you live your life everyday,” Iaconesi said. “Depending on where you are, in what context you are, different sets of rules apply.”
In their lecture, AOS used shopping malls as an example of this scenario. A shopping mall has many rules and restrictions about what shoppers can buy, where they can eat, how late they can stay, etc. However, because a shopping mall is designed to look like a public space, it gives shoppers an illusion of freedom. This example illustrates a less obvious, but possibly more dangerous one.
“This is a very similar situation to what happens online,” Iaconesi said. “Facebook, Twitter are designed as public spaces; they are made to look, as much as possible, like public spaces, but they really are not, like the shopping center, and this has incredible limits on your freedom of expression.
“What our problem is is that (Facebook) is a social infrastructure that is privately owned.”
For AOS, the private ownership of what has essentially become a country with over a billion residents is troubling, because this “United States of Facebook” is a country without a bill of rights or due process.
“Facebook, when you subscribe to the terms of service, actually tells you that it is free to change, at any time, without consent, the terms of service,” Iaconesi said.
“It’s very dangerous,” he continued, “because it’s a thing that changes, that affects your privacy, but there’s no social process connected to it. Facebook can change in ways that go way beyond my basic rights.”
With statements like these, it’s hard, yet again, not to label Iaconesi and Persico as activists.