‘Spying’ Artwork Mimics Digital Data Mining

Art installation ‘I Spy’ uses tablets to follow viewers’ motion with a digital face, representing a lack of digital privacy.

It’s convenient for your digital devices to ‘know’ what you’re looking for and to send you personalized offers, but would you be as comfortable with this service if an actual face were spying on you? After seeing ‘I Spy,’ you may not be sure.

Neil Mendoza is an artist and graduate of Oxford’s Maths and Computer Science Masters, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that digital programs are spying on us.

Every time a digital device asks to collect data about you and your movements to ‘improve their services,’ everyone knows that they’re spying on you and data-mining your actions for their own interests and advertising leverage. Yet we let them collect the data anyway, figuring the benefit outweighs the cost.

In his ‘I Spy’ installation, Mendoza wired together four tablets and a couple of Kinect 3D cameras to ‘consciously track’ your movements just as a digital device will do with your personal information. The four screens create the semblance of a face with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth that follow you around using motion data captured by the Kinect.

The entire project is rigged into a mobile hanging sculpture that creates a visually unnerving representation of your lack of digital privacy. We may know that our devices are ‘spying’ on us, but does that mean there’s away to avoid it? To put it another way, can you live without your digital devices? Probably not.

Check out the video of the installation below:

Neil Mendoza

Image by Neil Mendoza

 

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