At the end of September 2016, halfway through their Fellowship, the fellows of Het Nieuwe Instiuut were invited to give a brief update on their research-in-progress. For Simone Niquille this update focused on her work on The Contents.
The Contents is a research project in film and writing on digital identity, data ownership, imaging technology and the resulting power structures affecting real bodies. Imaging and capture technology are digitising our bodies at a resolution and frequency never attained before, and this tendency is only accelerating. The question of future identity hinges as much on digitised body data ownership as on the governance of the networked space of appearance. Who controls the narrative, who controls the screens and who owns the avatars?
"For The Contents film I have been gathering material, capturing footage as well as conducting interviews, which once completed will be released episodically. The episodes feature characters exploring digital identity and its possibility to be worn, represented, multiplied. The episodes are spliced together associations, character studies and technology fact-fiction. Avatars, as science fiction writer Neal Stephenson writes, are ‘people as pieces of software.’ In The Contents, motion capture and 3d scanning technology act as the shell and spirit to these digital bodies. Importantly, once digitized, the two do not have to stem from the same source. A scanned body can be animated (or inhabited) with the motions of a stranger. I have found the analogy of adults dressed up in costumes for the sake of children’s entertainment useful. The costume acts as the outer shell, rendering the stranger inside invisible. Children run to hug the stranger wearing an Elmo costume. An incident in New York’s Central Park in 2012 revealed one costumed strangers false flag strategy and confused onlookers compassion, he had been arrested in his Elmo costume after yelling racial slurs."