An Mertens

Algorithms as storytellers.

Workshop. Preheating: November 30th 2015, 15h.-18h. Day 1: December 1st 2015, 10:30h.-13:30h. and 15h.-18h. Day2: December 2nd 2015, 10:30h.-13:30h.
Talk: December 2nd 2015, 19h.

Algorithms have developed into somewhat of a modern myth. Nevertheless, the nature and implications of such orderings are far from clear. What exactly is it that algorithms “do”? What is the role attributed to “algorithms” in these arguments? How can we turn the “problem of algorithms” into an object of productive inquiry? (Solon Barocas ea, Governing algorithms: a provocation piece, paper, NY University, 2013). Until a few years ago people could decide to not take part in the algorithmic society – as described by Dave Eggers in his novel The Circle. Now we widely accept to deliver our personal data in exchange for free use of digital services as I-cloud, Googledocs, Spotify, Gps or whatever application on our smartphone. Their presence is so ubiquitous and at the same time so invisible, that users often feel ignorant and powerless in their interaction with these technologies.

The big challenge we face as humans is how we can consciously interact with these algorithms, in ways that empower us and allow us look after their democratic nature. The panoptical algorithmic eye asks for new types of stories and experiences that reveals its specific perspectives. An Mertens looks into literary forms of playing, writing and storytelling as a way to bridge the abstract computer world with concrete stories we humans need in order to deal with new phenomena. For the workshop she proposes a theoretical framework in which participants can go into dialogue with a selection of algorithms by engaging in their play, experiencing and discussing their structural nature or approaching them as systems that can be hacked.

An Mertens works as an artist and author. She is a core member of Constant, a Brussels’ based artist-run organisation for art and media with a focus on free software, feminist methodologies and free culture. With Constant An initiates research projects on how algorithms and code transform (literary) creation that lead to digital an print-publications, installations, walks, performances. In September 2013 her experimental novel Tot Later was launched with the publishing house De Bezige Bij Antwerpen. An reports about her own work on paramoulipist.be, the name being a declaration of love for parameters and Oulipian practises.

See more pictures of An Merten’s intervention here.