Citizen Score examines the convergence of ubiquitous quasi-state surveillance, facial/emotion recognition, and machine learning in order to imagine potential dark futures that stem from the accidental (or purposeful) assemblages of increasingly sophisticated and interconnected technologies being launched today.
Computers obtain ‘insight’ by observing, analyzing, and making conclusions about patterns of input data, triggering outcomes based on what they are ‘trained’ to look for and do.
In order to mirror this insight, I began by creating separate projects “Threat Score” and “Play with Me” looking at two different aspects of this process.
“Threat Score” sought to understand how people and institutions might use emotion recognition algorithms to collect and classify people’s perceived alignment with desired social paradigms by having users watch a series of politically and socially divisive commercials, tracking their emotions, and assigning a score to their reaction using the OpenFrameworks FaceTracking library.]
On the other hand, “Play with Me” explores the idea of creating innocuous interactions with cutesified surveillance technology, keeping users engaged long enough to collect and/or check their identity using facial recognition. If the user was deemed a threat by the cutesy system, it will target the user’s chest with a red laser beam, standing in for a weapons threat which could follow if this were employed in other applications.
Both of these projects combined into one interconnected user-experience over time birthing Citizen Score, a speculative design installation that imagines a future where ubiquitous interaction (surveillance), facial/feature recognition, and machine learning come together to form a system that can literally gauge a citizens worth and likelihood to dissent against the dominant social order, ‘eliminating’ them if they are enough of a threat.
Users engage with the interactive surveillance system, allowing it to construct a baseline profile of their emotions. They are then instructed to watch a series of commercials that skew heavily ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. After measuring their reactions, the system designates them a ‘Citizen Score’, an actual numerical score and corresponding ranking from among such titles as Patriot, Average, Dissident.
Videos of the installation were taken and combined with other research footage around surveillance:
- Videos from un-secured surveillance cameras in the USA, France, and Russia,
- Videos of normal NYC citizens being rated using the Citizen Score algorithm as they walked through Manhattan.
- Videos/Pictures of just a few of the many surveillance cameras in Manhattan and Brooklyn public places.
This content was used to produce a final video documenting the very real implications these technologies may create for our hyperconnected future.
Citizen Score was created for the final project of Major Studio 2 at MFA D+T, Parsons School of Design during the Spring of 2016.