Neo-analogue artifacts for digital sovereignty

Supervised by
Claudia Müller-Birn, Freie Universität Berlin – Perspective Computer Science
Thomas Ness, Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin – Perspective Design
Judith Glaser, Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin – Perspective Design
Peter Sörries, Freie Universität Berlin – Perspective Computer Science

„Recent inventions and business methods call attention to the next step which must be taken for the protection of the person, and for securing to the individual what Judge Cooley calls the right ‚to be let alone‘. Instantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life; and numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ‚what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops‘.“

– Warren and Brandeis, 1890

Privacy was already considered more than 100 years ago and is now highly discussed in the context of increasing digitalization and the domination of a few global players. The connection between technology, people, and society runs through countless „user-friendly“ manifestations of our daily lives; for example, in the form of voice assistants that play your favorite song, simple „like“ buttons, or sophisticated algorithms that suggest new friends on social media.

In this context, privacy as a „living, continually changing thing, a fluid concept, dependent on socio-cultural factors“ (Koops and Leenes, 2006) relates to an (even more) abstract concept, namely digital sovereignty. Digital sovereignty describes the ability of an individual or a society to use digital services (e.g. cloud or payment services and digital media) in a self-determined manner. Self-determination encompasses both individual capabilities and material conditions, such as legal, political, and infrastructural issues. However, from an individual, societal, economic, or ecological perspective, questions arise regarding relevant capabilities and conditions, such as: How can we (help) shape digital sovereignty? How can we support people in assessing the data security of digital services? How can we make individual data sharing and use transparent? How can we design for privacy? How can we make surveillance visible? How can we obfuscate our traces?

In this project, we intend to uncover, explore and reshape the socio-material aspects of digital sovereignty by designing novel neo-analogue artifacts. The goal is to give back to both individuals and society the „ability to influence something […] and its dynamics […], including the ability to check and correct for any deviation“ (Floridi, 2020). Furthermore, new forms of interaction between people, material, and code will emerge, enabling sovereign decision-making by allowing individuals to reflect on their digital practices critically. In interdisciplinary teams, students from Freie Universität Berlin and Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin, and in cooperation with the Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity, explore the possibilities of self-determination and „self-ownership, especially over one’s own body, choices, and data“ (Floridi, 2020) through neo-analogue artifacts.

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