Naked on Pluto/Documentation

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Naked on Pluto, 2010-2013 – Marloes de Valk, Aymeric Mansoux, Dave Griffiths

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Griffiths Mansoux de Valk 2010 Naked on Pluto.png
Naked on Pluto website, 2012.[1]

Naked on Pluto by Dave Griffiths, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk proposes a fun yet disturbing online game world, developed with open source software, that parodies the insidiously invasive traits of much social media. The city of “Elastic Versailles” is animated by the quirky combinatorial logics of a community of artificial intelligence bots that glean the Facebook data of participants in the game. The bot crew, dispersed across Naked on Pluto’s text-based environment, represents dysfunctional yet adamant gatekeepers. Players may try to override the game's access control and team up to crash and escape the system.

Robots generate a constant stream of stimuli to respond, click, poke and buy, while running havoc with users' and their contacts' data, leaking also outside the game world. Disconcertingly familiar moments and traces from one’s own and associated profiles are mixed indiscriminately in a brash landscape, reminiscent of the original Versailles. However, in this malleable ecosystem where all that counts are glimpses of fleeting visibility, no personal information is actually stored, nor is it relayed to Facebook.

Naked on Pluto caricatures the proliferation of virtual agents harvesting personal data and insidiously reframing online social environments and profiles. The work highlights the euphemisms of social networks: friends as quantifiable assets and carefully crafted personas imparting a sense of “intimacy”, and disingenuous publication of “private” data as self-advertising. Intelligence in this game emerges, ultimately, with players managing to escape from it.

January 2012[2]

For expanded statements see the artists' essays and interviews.



Artists' video presentation of Naked on Pluto, September 2011.[3]


Historical context

Examples of Facebook games by Zynga

Leakages of personal data from social media platforms began capturing public attention around 2010. It was revealed that Facebook allows third party app companies - notably Farmville-creator Zynga - to access private user information and re-distribute it to advertisers and tracking companies.

Facebook privacy 2010.png

This and many revelations that followed contributed to alienating especially young people from the platform. However most users felt unaffected, since the implications of data privacy breaches seemed too abstract. Convinced about the beneficial social effects of his company, Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg continued to assert that in a democratic society one has nothing to hide: "more transparency should make for a more tolerant society in which people eventually accept that everybody sometimes does bad or embarrassing things",[4] or, more bluntly, that privacy is no longer a "social norm".[5]

Edward Snowden's disclosures about the mass scale of systemic surveillance by state information agencies came several years later, in 2013. They included details on how personal data extracted from social media, especially a person's social graph, are key for chaining private contacts and enhancing the analysis of personal communication.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018 has shown that personal data from social media is valuable not only for commercial advertising and state security but also for running digital election campaings and targeting voters.

The work

Game (software)

What does the game do with participants' data.[6]
Cleaners, adbots, spybots and other bots in the Naked on Pluto world.[7]

The heart of Naked on Pluto was as an online game for Facebook users developed by the artists. After initial release, the game was operative for about three years, until 2013. Rather than subject to software versioning, it had been continuously developed, and in retrospect, several milestones may be considered. First, there were small changes in the application (such as the introduction of help menu and autocompletion) and bugs corrected. Later, more significant alterations were introduced. One of the new elements in the game, a cleaner bot, went public on Twitter. Also, the project's website was redesigned as a news site featuring interviews with players conducted by a bot. Finally, the artists created several separate apps for exhibitions and workshops. One was responsible for realtime visualisation of data from the game, another for generating books, and one for running experiments on user data.

Technical notes. The game server was programmed in Racket, derived from Scheme, and the client-side was written in Javascript. The game used Facebook Connect and requested players for permission to access their their Facebook data and activity. This included identity information (name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information shared with everyone), profile information (likes, music, TV, movies, books, quotes, ‘about me’ details, activities, interests, groups, events, notes, birthday, home town, current city, website, religious and political views, education history, work history and Facebook status), photos and videos (photos uploaded, videos uploaded and photos and videos of the user), friends’ information (birthdays, religious and political views, home towns, current cities, likes, music, TV, movies, books, quotes, activities, interests, education history, work history, websites, groups, events, notes, photos, videos, photos and videos of them, ‘about me’ details and Facebook statuses) and posts in a users’ news feed.[8] The game software is archived in a git repository.[9] See also the artists' blog: [1] [2] [3] [4].

Workshops, presentations, essays, interviews

Presentations, workshops, essays and interviews shared the goal of communicating the research behind Naked on Pluto's development and adapting this communication to different audiences. These formats have been useful in allowing thorough contextualisation, the addition of references and a walk through the technical aspects of Facebook's application hazards (as uncovered by the game's development). These moments have also allowed to chanel the discussion to some very different audiences: while the workshop in Barcelona brought together people from different horizons and of various ages, the one in Eindhoven had a very young audience with more social media literacy, but more reluctant to critique. Presentations have also been adapted to different audiences and thematic events in which they took place, but also depending on the advancement of the project at the time. The Liwoli lecture series for instance, benefited the project by bringing more voices into the conversation. The Facesponge workshops were initiated once the project was mature and allowed to dig more precisely into the API itself, by use of a web application developed by the artists. Although the format was very enriching for the project, instances have been very few, mainly due to the lack of interest in social media critique at the time.

The essay published on the ESEA's website and in the Sniff, Scape, Crawl (PZI) publication has operated as a self standing paper, while the Funware one has been presentated alongside preliminary research material and an Interview of the artists. The last two interviews, circulated in Libération, fundationtelefonica, appealed to a more generalist audience.

Workshops
Naked on Pluto workshop at Baltan Laboratories, Eindhoven, May 2012.
  • Our Life Online, workshop and debate, CCCB, Barcelona, 24 February 2012. Facilitated by Aymeric Mansoux and Gerald Kogler; featuring a discussion with Jussi Parikka, Pau Waelder and Mónica Bello. Announcement. Announcement. Slides. Videos. Video report (by Agora News).
Presentations, lectures

Plutonian Striptease was a lecture series organised by Marloes de Valk as part of Art Meets Radical Openness: Liwoli festival, Linz, 13-14 May 2011. The guest speakers presented a range of artistic projects related to social media, online privacy, data market and the economy of open systems: Marloes de Valk (Naked on Pluto), Owen Mundy (Give Me My Data), Dusan Barok (FaceLeaks), Nicolas Malevé (Yoogle), Margaritha Köhl, Pippa Buchanan (Mozilla Webcraft), and Birgit Bachler. Announcement. Program: part 1, part 2. Videos.

Naked on Pluto was also presented by the artists at NIMk, Amsterdam, 12 October 2010; Piksel festival, Bergen, 20 November 2010; Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, 16 March 2011; ISEA symposium, Istanbul, September 2011; transmediale festival, Berlin, 3 February 2012 (video recording and slides are available).

Essays
  • Griffiths, David, Aymeric Mansoux, and Marloes de Valk, "Naked on Pluto: Share Your Way to a Better World", in A Blueprint for a Lab of the Future, ed. Angela Plohman, Eindhoven: Baltan Laboratories, 2011, 232-237. Part of the project's feature in a book from Naked on Pluto residency co-host. [5] [6]
  • de Valk, Marloes, "Naked on Pluto", in ISEA2011, the 17th International Symposium on Electronic Art, Istanbul: ISEA, 2011, 605-610. Based on symposium presentation.
Interviews

Exhibitions

Naked on Pluto installation view, ARCO Madrid, 2012.
Naked on Pluto data visualisation, ARCO Madrid, 2012.
Visitors interacting with Naked on Pluto data visualisation, ARCO Madrid, 2012.
Visitors interacting with Naked on Pluto game, Funware opening, MU, Eindhoven, November 2011.

In October 2011, Naked on Pluto was awarded with the VIDA (Art and Artificial Life International Awards) 13.2. prize[10] and was exhibited at ARCO 2012 in Madrid as part of the VIDA 13.2 exhibition there. The project was also exhibited at MU Eindhoven (NL), FILE Sao Paulo (BR), FILE RIO (BR), FACT Liverpool (UK), KIBLA Maribor (SI), and the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts Taipei (TW).

Installation

When the project started to be exhibited, it was agreed that simply showing the website was not interesting (see wiki to traces of discussions about that matter). The artists wanted to avoid making "an exhibition of documentation" and explored ways to translate the work to the exhibition space. Besides computer terminal and wifi access to download the game on visitors' devices, two elements were key to the installation: data visualisation and printed books. The visualisation represented realtime data from activity in the game, while books were intended as physical manifestation of a library featured in the game.

The library was a final location in the game that needed to be DDOS'ed by the player in order to escape the social media dystopia world they had been jailed in. The library was essentially a metaphor for centralised social network databases. It was decided to produce for each exhibition 30 unique books, each representing the whole history of an object, a bot, a player in the game. This was made possible due to the server side recording of the state/graph of the world every x minutes during the 3 years the game was running.

Exhibition history
  • Speed Show vol.5: Open Internet, Paris, 13 January 2011. Announcement.
  • FILE festival, SESI Cultural Centre, São Paulo, 18 July - 21 August 2011. Announcement.

Publishing research and development

Publishing had an important role and served different functions, from dissemination and making public the current state of the research, to the use of publishing as an artistic medium in itself. At the basis of the project was the research blog that was started early on and was used to announce milestones, events, but also share snippets of code, various musing about the topic and interviews with peers and scholars. Less visible but not hidden either, was the project's wiki, that was used to draft internal documents, dump ideas, manage several TODOs and overall roadmap for the project. At some point, when the game was pretty much final, the interactions between bots and players became source material to generate and publish content outside of the game. This took the forms of a blog, a Twitter bot, and a collection of printed books for the exhibitions. Finally during the project lifetime several interviews were given, a conference paper was writen, and the project is occasionaly mentionned in academic literature even years after the game was taken offline.

Plutonian Striptease

One significant content of the blog was the 12 interviews that took place between september 2010 and january with "experts, owners, users, fans and haters of social media", so as to map the different perspective at the time regarding social networks and data privacy. Next to providing of snapshot of social media critque at the turn of 2010, these interviews also served as inspiration for the developing new or re-enforcing existing narrative elements of the game. The interviews can be found in blog archive and a mashup was published by Baltan Laboratories in A Blueprint for a Lab of the Future (2011).

Published interviews (September 2010-January 2011):

Blog

The blog was divided into 8 categories to reflect the different aspects of the research: contextual, graphic design, installation, interface design, interview, script writing, technical, and workshop. Each post was further described with tags.The most used were: privacy, social networks, web 2.0, EULA, Internet, exhibition, VIDA, Facebook, data mining and marketing.

A static archive of the blog can be found at https://archive.bleu255.com/nakedonpluto/

Wiki

The wiki was used to dump ideas, draft documents, and share some materials. It was roughly organised but with little intent to make it particularly useful public audience. The wiki being also used for other projects and occupations, all the pages related to the project were put in the MediaWiki category "Naked on Pluto".

Selected pages of interest:

Archive

The project's archive inventory is available on a dedicated page on Monoskop wiki.

Reception

  • Dekker, Annet, "The Challenge of Open Source for Conservation", in Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art, eds. Lúcia Almeida Matos, Rita Macedo and Gunnar Heydenreich, Lisbon: Instituto de História da Arte, 2015, 124-132.
  • Dekker, Annet, "Enabling the Future or How to Survive FOREVER", in A Companion to Digital Art, ed. Christiane Paul, Wiley Blackwell, 2016, 564-5, 579.

Credits

Naked on Pluto was produced by Dave Griffiths, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk with support from NIMk (now LIMA). Major part of the work was developed through sprints as part of the Funware residency (2010) at NIMk,[11] Baltan Laboratories and Piksel. The Facesponge workshop (2011) was supported by AVEK and Baltan Laboratories. Web hosting was provided by servus.at.

Contributors included Rob Myers, Dmytri Kleiner, Geoff Cox, Rob van Kranenburg, Geert Lovink, Marc Garrett, Florian Cramer, Owen Mundy, Constant, Mez Breeze, Gordan Savičić (interviews), Annet Dekker, Angela Plohman (feedback on sprints), VIDA team (exhibition architecture and production). Testing and game feedback: Kassen Oud, Alex McLean, Michael Murtaugh, game design students and researchers from TU Eindhoven.

The project's content is available under copyleft licenses (GPL, CC-BY-SA, FAL, depending on the material).

About this website

This documentation, along with presentation and archive, was assembled by Dušan Barok and Julie Boschat Thorez in collaboration with Aymeric Mansoux as part of the programme Documentation of Digital Art organised by LIMA in January-June 2020. The process is to be discussed in an online workshop on 30 June 2020.

Notes

  1. Project's website (archived).
  2. Based on the statement on the website of CCCB, Barcelona, 16 January 2012.
  3. Youtube, 6 September 2011
  4. Michiko Kakutani, "Company on the Verge of a Social Breakthrough", New York Times, 7 June 2010.
  5. "Facebook’s Zuckerberg Says Privacy No Longer A ‘Social Norm’ (VIDEO)", HuffPost, 18 March 2010.
  6. "What do we do with your data?", Naked on Pluto, 16 November 2010.
  7. Dave Griffiths, Vimeo.
  8. Griffiths et al 2011, 236.
  9. See esp. folders Game Broadcast, Game Client, Game Server, Slub Game Client, Slub Game Server.
  10. VIDA 13.2, 2011
  11. NIMk, Naked on Pluto, 2010.


Naked on Pluto, 2010-2013 – Marloes de Valk, Aymeric Mansoux, Dave Griffiths

WorkDocumentationArchivePreservation