In our so-called networked society citizens are becoming increasingly machine-like and dependent on data, threatening the connection between humans and their natural habitats. Although most of our daily transactions are carried out through electronic devices, we know very little of the apparatus that facilitates such interactions, or, about the machinery that lies beyond the interface. Interfaces play a key role in the configuration and functionality of surveillance capitalism as in the rise of new forms of immaterial labor. The project I propose is part of an on-going investigation on the environmental impact of surveillance capitalism and focus on analyzing the environmental footprint of user interactions, namely immaterial labour, carried out through extensively used interfaces, such as Amazon, Google or Facebook. Moreover, a big part of the energy consumption derived from this obfuscated labour processes, falls on the user, who ultimately needs to assume a big portion of the energy costs of such exploitation. Thus, my project aims to reveal the heavy materiality of “intangible” graphic user interfaces, focusing on the material impact of user interaction in order to devise tactics to fight against interface hegemony.
The starting point of my project takes a theory developed by Ivan Illich which says that when a machine is using more energy than that of the metabolic energy of the human, human is dominated by the machine (i.e. a car, plane), and in the case of interfaces, I believe that the human is also dominated/smashed by the corporations and agencies behind them. I’m working with this idea of energy and social equity and I want to speculate on the role that future interfaces could have on creating a whole new system to distribute energy which could lead to a more balanced society. During the residency I will calculate the amount of energy consumed by the machine when a human scrolls down, clicks, logs in, logs out, resizes screens and so on. At the same time I will measure the amount of metabolic energy used by a human when carrying out the same operations (scrolling, clicking…). The machine is obviously using much more energy than the amount of kcal employed by the human to operate it (based on previous research I developed). Once this is done, I will output this comparison and at the same time I’ll radically re-design the web interfaces of the most powerful IT corporations in order to equate the energy used by a human (when interacting with those websites) with the one used by the machine.