On 16 June 2017 Het Nieuwe Instituut's Research & Development team presents a programme around the Thursday Night Live! Bot Club: Critical Bots event on 15 June.
Bots and algorithmic agents play an important role in the filtering and formatting of online content in relation to the 'datafied' behaviour of web users. They are involved in the ordering and selection of news feeds, the regulation and moderation of Wikipedia, and for instance in the automated writing of reports on small-scale sports events, weather updates and developments on the stock exchange. An active bot culture has developed on twitter and other platforms where developers make bots as a form of subversive art. Bots, each in their own-semi-autonomous way, contribute to the content, form and culture of online platforms. Critical Bots focuses on the conceptualisation and development of bots, scripts or other computational agents that intervene in algorithmic culture in a critical manner. This could involve the collecting and profiling of user data, the organisation of alternative recommendation systems based on other concepts of optimisation, or may bring to light hidden processes or question the assumptions of web users.
Bot Club II Critical Bots on the evening of 15 June comprises the public part of the programme. Media artist Julian Oliver (NZ) and Anne Helmond (NL) will present different perspectives on the history, performance and potential uses of critical bots.
On Friday 16 June a series of presentations and hackathon will take place at Het Nieuwe Instituut. The aim is to conceive and develop bots and other algorithmic agents that can intervene in algorithmic culture and provide different forms of critique concerning the automation of information streams. Julian Oliver (NZ), Sarah Eskens (NL) and Cristina Cochior (RO/NL) present and discuss cases of critical bots, followed by a concept development and programming workshop.
The event will have a limited audience of around twenty savvy creative coders, artists, designers or thinkers in the field. If you would like to participate in the event on Friday, please send an email to Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (email@example.com) with an outline of your background. If you participate in the programme on Friday, we will reserve a place for you at the Bot Club on Thursday evening.
Julian Oliver is a media artist and co-author of the Critical Engineering Manifesto. Oliver's perspective is formed by his consequential open-source code practice, giving him a technologically independent position not steered by off-the-shelf hardware and software. Julian regularly gives workshops and masterclasses in software art, data forensics, creative hacking, computer networking and counter-surveillance.
Sarah Eskens (NL) is a legal scholar interested in the right to receive information and privacy and data protection rights, in relation to news media and electronic surveillance. She is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Information Law (Instituut voor Informatierecht - IViR) at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on news personalisation as a new development in which online news media are collecting our personal data, and on the right to receive information, privacy, and data protection aspects of personalised news.
Cristina Cochior (RO/NL) is a researcher and designer working in the Netherlands. With an interest in automation practices, disruption of the interface and peer-to-machine knowledge production, her practice consists of research investigations into knowledge sharing and bureaucratic systems. Having recently graduated from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, she is currently examining ecologies of algorithmic workers on digital platforms.