Naked on Pluto/Documentation

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

WorkDocumentationArchivePreservation

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.

Based on artists' statement, January 2012[2]

For expanded statements see the artists' essays and interviews.



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


Introduction

The documentation assembled on this website is part of an initiative to preserve the work Naked on Pluto. It is accompanied by the work's presentation and archive. Detailed description of the approach can be found on a dedicated page.

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. 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.

The artists actively maintained the game until about 2013 and it continued to operate until 2015 when Facebook changed its API and stopped providing friends' data to external applications, a feature making the Naked on Pluto game unplayable.[8] This move effectively consolidated Facebook's monopoly over unchecked data extraction from its social graph and drove its third party ecosystem out of business.

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.[9] The game software is archived in a git repository.[10] See also the artists' blog: [1] [2] [3] [4].

Workshops, presentations, essays, interviews

In their presentations, workshops, essays and interviews, the artists drew from their research surrounding Naked on Pluto's development and accommodated discussion with different audiences. These formats allowed thorough contextualisation, expanded the referential framework and revealed the technical aspects of Facebook's application hazards (uncovered during the game's development). Presentations were adapted to audience and thematic events in which they took place, and reflected the state of advancement of the project. The Liwoli lecture series, for example, brought more voices into the conversation. The workshops, held in the latter phase of the work's life, featured hands-on exploration of the Facebook API, using the web application Facesponge developed by the artists as a sandbox for live-code manipulation of Facebook user data. Although the format was very enriching for the project, only two workshops were held, mainly due to the lack of interest in social media critique at the time. These moments also allowed to channel 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.

Publications formed another discursive element of the work. The essay published in the ISEA proceedings and in the Sniff, Scape, Crawl publication operates as a self-standing paper, while the section in the Baltan Laboratories book presents research material alongside an interview with the artists. Another two interviews, featured in Libération and on the Fundación Telefónica website, address general 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), Dušan 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; repr. in Sniff, Scape, Crawl: On Privacy, Surveillance and Our Shadowy Data-Double, ed. Renée Turner, London: Openmute, and Rotterdam: Piet Zwart Institute, 2012. Based on symposium presentation.
Interviews

Exhibitions

Naked on Pluto installation view, ARCO Madrid, 2012.
One of the Naked on Pluto books presented as part of installations. PDF version.

In October 2011, Naked on Pluto was awarded with the VIDA (Art and Artificial Life International Awards) 13.2. prize[11] and exhibited at ARCO 2012 in Madrid as part of the award exhibition there. The project was also shown at MU Eindhoven (NL), FILE São 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, the artists agreed that simply showing the website was not interesting (see wiki to traces of discussions about that matter). They wanted to avoid making "an exhibition of documentation" and explored ways to translate the work to the exhibition space.

The artists chose the central point of the Naked on Pluto's world, the Plutonian Library, as the centrepiece of the work's installation as well. 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. Here, everything was tracked, recorded and controlled.

The installation was intended as a presentation of the activity in the game, illustrating that every single thing in it is being tracked and recorded. The activity of players and bots was presented in a real-time visualisation. For each exhibition, the artists also produced thirty unique books, intended as physical manifestation of the library. Each represented the whole history of an object, a bot or a player in the game. This was possible by recording the state/graph of the game world on the server side throughout the operation of the game. Besides these elements, computer terminal and wifi were provided to access the game.

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 roles, from making public the current state of the research to the use of publishing as an artistic medium in itself. Central to this was a research blog started early on and used to announce milestones, events, but also share snippets of code, various musings about the topic and interviews with peers and scholars. Less visible was the project's wiki that was used for drafting internal documents, dumping ideas and project planning and management. When the game was moreless finalised, the interactions between bots and players became source material to generate and publish content outside of the game. This took the form of a blog, a Twitter bot, and a series of printed books for exhibitions.

Plutonian Striptease

In order to map a range of perspectives on social networks and data privacy, between September 2010 and January 2011, the artists conduced interviews with twelve "experts, owners, users, fans and haters of social media". Next to providing a snapshot of social media critique at the time, these interviews also served as an impetus for developing new or re-enforcing existing narrative elements in the game. The interviews were released on the project's blog 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 eight categories reflecting 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

An instance of MediaWiki was used to dump ideas, draft documents and share materials. It was roughly organised but with little intent to make it particularly useful for public audience. Since the artists use the wiki for their other projects and occupations as well, the pages related to the project were put in the category "Naked on Pluto".

Selected pages of interest:

Archive

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

Reception

  • Graham, Beryl, "Introduction", in New Collecting: Exhibiting and Audiences after New Media Art, ed. Beryl Graham, Ashgate, 2014, 8-9, 14.
  • 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.
  • Paul, Christiane, "Augmented Realities: Digital Art in the Public Sphere", in A Companion to Public Art, eds. Cher Krause Knight and Harriet F. Senie, Wiley-Blackwell, 2016, 331.

Credits

Naked on Pluto was created 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,[12] Baltan Laboratories[13] and Piksel.[14] The Facesponge workshop (2011) was supported by AVEK and Baltan Laboratories. Web hosting was provided by servus.at.

Contributors: interviews: Rob Myers, Dmytri Kleiner, Geoff Cox, Rob van Kranenburg, Geert Lovink, Marc Garrett, Florian Cramer, Owen Mundy, Constant, Mez Breeze, Gordan Savičić; feedback on sprints: Annet Dekker, Angela Plohman; exhibition architecture and production: VIDA team. 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).

This documentation and accompanied presentation and archive were assembled by Dušan Barok and Julie Boschat Thorez in collaboration with Aymeric Mansoux, supported by LIMA as part of its programme Documentation of Digital Art in January-June 2020. The process was discussed in an online workshop on 30 June 2020. Mila van der Weide wrote a workshop summary.

References

  1. Project's website (archived).
  2. 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. Josh Constine, "Facebook Is Shutting Down Its API For Giving Your Friends’ Data To Apps", TechCrunch, 28 April 2015.
  9. Griffiths et al 2011, 236.
  10. See esp. folders Game Broadcast, Game Client, Game Server, Slub Game Client, Slub Game Server.
  11. VIDA 13.2, 2011
  12. NIMk, Artist in Residence: Naked on Pluto, 2010.
  13. "Funware residency: Naked on Pluto", Baltan Laboratories, 7 July 2010.
  14. "Funware Residency: Naked on Pluto by Dave Griffiths, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk", Piksel, 15 July 2010.


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

WorkDocumentationArchivePreservation