Olga Goriunova: Biometrics, Data Abstractions and the Politics of Truth

April 30, 2024 | 13:30 GMT

Winchester School of Art

Guest talk by Professor Olga Goriunova, cultural theorist working with technological cultures, media philosophy and aesthetics.

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In this talk, I begin with the idea that in order to function, or be materially relevant, all abstractions need grounding. For the human subject, such grounding, I suggest, is performed via the body and the specific anchoring of the body in abstractions such as biometrics, mobile phone triangulation and a range of others. In such abstractions, the production of truth is performed in relation to the framework developed from the 18th century onwards, where the bearer of truth is nature, of which human body is part. However, with AI, "nature" as a concept loses much of its force and it is a newly constructed "matter", which takes center stage. Therefore, using examples from ground truthing in AI to biometric technology, I ask, how are data and AI-based abstractions are grounded today and, relatedly, how is truth produced?

Olga Goriunova is Professor of Digital Culture in the department of Media Arts, Royal Holloway University of London. She was co-curator of Readme, international touring software art festivals, 2001-2005 and Runme.org software art repository (2003+), and curator of Fun and Software touring exhibition (2010-2011). This work has been conceptualized in her monograph Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet (Routledge, 2012) and in the collections she edited and co-edited, including Readme. Software Art and Cultures (Aarhus University Press, 2004) and Fun and Software: Exploring Pleasure, Pain and Paradox in Computing (Bloomsbury, 2014). She is also a co-founder and co-editor of Computational Culture, a Journal of Software Studies. She is the co-author (with Matthew Fuller) of Bleak Joys. Aesthetics of Ecology and Impossibility (University of Minnesota Press, 2019) and the editor of the special issue “Digital Subjects” of the journal Subjectivity (2018). She wrote influential essays on glitch, new media idiocy, memes and lurkers before these were mobilised by alt-right, data surveillance and AI. Her new project Ideal Subjects (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming) focuses on machine learning, data and subject-construction.

The talk is part of CIIP Speaker Series organised in collaboration with MA Fine Art and MA GMM in the Department of Art and Media Technology, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.