“Australia fights sharks with drones – Algorithm spots sharks on aerial images taken by drones”
“Several arrests at demonstration against Online censorship in Russia – Demonstrators lament increase control of the web through government”
“Facebook knows family secret: Algorithm shocks user – Father of US-journalist was adopted, Facebook suggested unknown relatives as friends without apparent reason”
Headlines of derStandard.at on the authors Facebook feed on the 27th of August 12:41-12:43pm.
“The modern machine…possesses its own laws of pulsation, functioning, and relaxation — laws that do not stand in conformity with the rhythm of the human organism. The world of the machine, the world of mechanical equipment and urbanized labor, produces specially connected collectives, begets certain types of people. These are people who we must accept, just as we accept the machine, though we must not smash their heads on its gears. We must bring some kind of equalizing coefficient into the machine’s iron disciplinary pressure, though history insistently demands we pose these not as petty problems of the social protection of the individual personality, but rather the bold engineering of human psychology according to such an historical factor as machinism.”
Method Time Measurement (MTM) was developed shortly after WWII with the aim of rationalizing and optimizing all movements and motions needed to perform manual labour. The process involves analyzing motions, describing them and assigning them ideal duration times. From 10 basic categories 1600 subcategories were defined. The assigned times are supposed to be representative for an experienced worker under normal circumstances. It takes around 2000 cycles until an MTM measurement becomes standard. MTM is consequently also used to predict task times of complete production cycles. But evidence shows that reality and theory do not agree as the system relies on analyst judgement and results may not accurately reflect the work done. This did not prevent MTM from becoming a popular and widespread tool to increase labor productivity.
MTM is a process much in line with earlier developments of scientific management, automation and mechanization such as Taylorism and Fordism. It is easy to see early forms in the enthusiastic appropriation and application of mechanization processes in Soviet Taylorism. Aleksei Gastev, poet and factory worker, was a passionate promoter of ‘systematic planning’, ‘chronometration of time’ and ‘automated uniformity of labor’, pushing his vision of assembly-line production and rationalization so far as to make Ford‘s theories compatible with Karl Marx’s thinking. As the founder and first director of the ‘Central Institute of Labor’ (1920-1937) he was also instrumental in the Constructivist’s artistic and architectural appropriation of Taylorism, since his distinct interpretation lent itself to modernist aesthetics and it was his fanatical promotion that paved the way for the embrace of the machine cult by the Soviets.
It is notable that Gastev had very well understood that mechanization basically meant the mechanization of man himself and that this process had to go so far as to encompass his so-called mental activity basically even if it this meant going against human nature.
Psychophysiology and Psychotechnics, a much revered and adopted discipline within Taylorism, were trying to achieve exactly this reprogrammation of the human mind. In short Psychotechnics is defined as a scientific theory aiming to seize and subordinate the mind and artificially control behavior. The discipline researched in an experimental manner a variety of problems also related to aesthetics, such as the balance of simple shapes, symmetry, repetition of spatial forms, rhythm and rhyme, impression of poetic language elements, the conditions of uniform appearance and so on. Ultimately it served as a further tool to achieve the mechanization of the human as Gastev had demanded, to reach not only physiological perfection but also the adjustment of mind and behaviour to fit the machines.
Very much opposed to the enthusiastic adoption of scientific management, the cult of machines and the great hopes for improvement of labourers‘ lives through a reduction of working hours, better pay and more time for intellectual and artistic labour in the Communist context was the reception or anticipation of mechanization in the Western countries.The introduction of machines was received with great anxiety and fear of replacement and obsoleteness by the workers. Additionally it became quickly clear that the improvement of efficiency through machines within the system of capitalism would only serve to further exploit and oppress workers while increasing profits on their backs.
This structure of feeling sounds actually all too familiar if we consider contemporary sentiments towards the labour market and its current or anticipated developments. The rapid evolution of new technology, robotic systems, artificial intelligence and all possible cross pollinations of these have many a professional worried about the near future in their respective disciplines – except now this does not only concern workers, but also the academically trained.
Similarly, if the methods of scientific management entailed measuring the ‘ideal’ movements of workers (be it physically or mentally) to increase efficiency and profit or leisure time (depending on political context or vision) nowadays we see all of our data mined and extracted to the maximum as data has become the most valuable capital in a digitally dominated
world. In the newest developments tech giants have invested in physical stores to further increase the surveillance and extraction of information through the tracking of offline movement and behaviour.
The death of capitalism has been announced many a time, but with each step seemingly edging us closer to its collapse we have seen it mutate into a harsher and more merciless monstrum – so in what kind of capitalism are we currently living?
In an attempt to define exactly this Nick Srnicek describes the current state of the prevailing economy as Platform Capitalism. So from the Fordist model of mass production and mass consumption we went to a Post-Fordist model that saw flexible production, the individualization of products, responsiveness to consumer preferences and outsourcing of non-profitable sectors at its core and money made mainly through branding.
Parallelly we went from life-long careers to a series of jobs, arriving at a rhythm of employment going from gig to gig.
Platform Capitalism on the other hand operates with intermediaries, offering infrastructures. The main revenue streams within these structures consist of advertisement, cloud computing, products and sharing economies. The strategies applied lead to monopolization through network effects (just think how hard it is to escape companies such as Facebook or Google in one way or another), cross subsidization where companies offer services for free to get more people on board and raising prices on other items to make profits and ultimately they all come with a built-in architecture that does not allow for neutral unmonitored exchange but requires adherence to specific rules of behaviour, ultimately manipulating its users.
The key resource being data platforms constantly improving aparatuses to extract data across all economies. To expand their activities in data collection they infringe on privacy, asking for ever more personal information and gathering data through wifi networks and the like turning all our activity, not only labour and consumption into profit, but also leisure, idleness and sleep while ever increasing this effect through constant manipulation by the same means.
Again, we can argue that the discourse is evolving between two very disparate visions, on the one hand those who see the digital as a means to liberate the human, free up time for leisure or intellectual activity, increase salaries and therefore break down hierarchies, decentralize control and possibly even help harmonize social relations and on the other hand those who see the increased omnipotence of technology as the ultimate tool to further oppress and exploit, increasing the power, surveillance capabilities and wealth of the ruling class. We might agree that currently the latter scenario seems significantly closer to our reality, indicating that without changes to the underlying framework it is not likely that technology will radically improve the lives of the masses – we are left to wonder how to possibly move towards the first?
Laura Amann, 2017
Kajsa Dahlberg (born 1973 in Göteborg) is a visual artist and has been a research fellow at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm since September 2016. Dahlberg took her master degree at the Malmö Art Academy in 2003 and she was a fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York in 2007-08. She is currently living in Oslo.
In her artistic work, Dahlberg is interested in how our understandings of the collective is formed. This involves a concern with how stories are constructed and conveyed in order to create a sense of community. The newly created work Log # 2, Trin, Prague, August 29, 2017, 10:17am shown at Hunt Kastner is the first in an ongoing project and questions the shift of focus from production to distribution and circulation of content through the internet. By using one medium to capture another, a document is created that can only be watched as an event
in time and potentially would have been very different if recorded minutes later. Simultaneously it relates to the genesis of data of ourselves through leisurely activities which yet again will reappear on our screens as the algorithm learns about our interests and habits. Dahlberg addresses the issue of a sense of loss of future which can only be regained by once again relating to a more humane temporality.
Dahlberg’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Germany, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark, Parra & Romero Madrid, Spain, Lund Art Hall and Index in Stockholm. Her work has also been shown in group shows and at biennals such as 8 Bienal do Mercosul, Brazil, Based in Berlin, Germany. Manifesta 8, Spain and the Modern Museum in Stockholm.
Jirka Skála (born 1976 in Sušice) is a visual artist based in Prague. His work is close to the tradition of postconceptual art and participative art, these tendencies being reflected through the mediums of text, performance, installation, photography and videos.
Earlier works thematised the textual narrative and alternative modes of communication, later he investigated the duality of socially and privately determined relations to consumer productions by means of work or leisure resources. Deepening his research in this field, for this exhibition Skála dissects his personal archive in form of an external hard disk, revealing not only his working structure but also his physical relationship to this familiar object as well as realizations of the conditions his artistic practice operates from.
Skála presented his works in a variety of group exhibitions, amongst others at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Secession in Vienna, UBS Art Gallery in New York, Wiels in Brussels, Seventeen Gallery in London, Manifesta 11 in Zurich as well as solo shows at Display Gallery in Prague, Art in General in New York, Hunt Kastner Gallery in Prague, Foksal Gallery in Warsaw and Etc Gallery in Prague. He received the Jindrich Chalupecky Award in 2009.