Digital artist Sebastian Schmieg created a speculative Prezi on digital labor and the amalgamation of humans and software narrated by a cloud worker.
I Will Say Whatever You Want In Front Of A Pizza is a speculative Prezi that explores digital labor, the amalgamation of humans and software, and the possibility of interventions inside algorithmic systems. It is narrated from the perspective of a cloud worker. While technology is often described as an extension of our bodies, the Prezi (presentation software) video explores a reversed relationship: digital workers as software extensions. The ubiquitous network and the computerization of everything have not only blurred the lines between bots and people – supposedly autonomous programs are sometimes people that have to act as if they were software. This development has also made it very easy for everyone to hire, program, and retire humans as part of any workflow: bodies and minds that can be plugged in, rewired, and discarded as one sees fit.
I Will Say Whatever You Want In Front Of A Pizza weaves together screenshots that connect hidden workers creating training datasets for artificial intelligence; gig workers to whom creativity means doing whatever promises to be paid at least something; and a Singaporean teenager who was hired by Donald Trump’s campaign to create a Prezi video.
Departing from these screenshots I speculate on the possibility of »covert interventions« inside such platforms and algorithmic systems by means of manipulated training data or Easter Eggs.
Easter Eggs are hidden messages or secret features in software or other media. While some are created as part of a regular development process, others are sneaked in, bypassing management and quality assurance. This way, underappreciated, unchallenged, or unhappy workers carve a niche for visibility and an exercise of skills. To me, this form of intervention at least gestures toward the possibility of appropriating algorithmic systems from within.
As microjobs and gig work represent an already-present future of work for many of us, the interventions should not be seen as something to be outsourced. Rather, it is a possible practice in which we all should engage.
The Prezi can exist in multiple forms simultaneously – video, slideshow, lecture performance, etc. Furthermore, the piece is never finished and can constantly update in order to always meet the market’s demands.