> do you have a secret?


Are secrets uniquely​ ​human?​ Our​ ​private​ ​lives ​are mediated and​ ​recorded​ ​by​ ​digital​ ​devices. ​Where​ ​are​ ​our​ ​secrets​ ​now? ​How​ ​will​ ​intelligent systems​ ​of​ ​the​ ​future​ ​process​ ​the​ ​data ​we​ ​leave​ ​behind?​ ​Will​ ​they​ ​know​ ​things​ ​about​ ​us that​ ​we​ ​don’t​ ​(and​ ​never​ ​could)​ ​know​ ​about​ ​ourselves?

The​ ​Future​ ​of​ ​Secrets​​ ​is​ ​an​ ​interactive​ ​installation​ created by Sarah Newman, Jessica Yurkofsky, and Rachel Kalmar from metaLAB at Harvard. It is an immersive experience that includes sound, projection, and interaction; the installation asks​ ​participants​ ​to​ ​anonymously share​ ​their​ ​secrets ​as​ ​a​ ​way​ ​to​ question​ ​the​ ​trust we​ ​place​ ​in​ ​machines​, and ultimately​ ​reflect​ back​ ​our​ ​own​ ​humanness.​ ​What​ ​does​ ​it​ ​mean for​ ​us​ ​to​ ​share​ ​so​ ​much​ ​of​ ​ourselves​ ​through ​complex ​systems and digitally distributed networks?​ ​What​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​logic​ ​or intelligence​ ​is​ ​behind​ ​a​ ​screen?​ ​Who or what​ ​is​ ​watching​ ​or​ ​reading​ ​our​ ​words? The installation is an opportunity to be immersed in secrets, and inspires delight, surprise, and reflection while evoking questions about uncertain technological futures.


The​ ​Future​ ​of​ ​Secrets​​ ​is​ ​an​ ​evolving​ ​installation​ ​that​ ​collects​ ​secrets​ ​from​ ​participants, and​ ​then​ ​shares​ ​those​ ​secrets​ ​by​ ​algorithmically​ ​determined​ ​but​ ​opaque​ ​logic.​ ​Each time​ ​it​ ​is​ ​exhibited​ ​it​ ​grows​ ​more​ ​complex. The installation at SXSW will combine previous versions of this work into a more comprehensive one that includes interactive audio, video, print, and interaction with the secrets portal itself. During the exhibition (March 9-15), remote participants can submit secrets through this website, which will then be incorporated into the live exhibition in Austin. Part of the 2018 SXSW Art Program.

Installation details:

Multiple data​ ​feeds​ ​run​ ​simultaneously:​ ​human​ ​secrets​ ​projected​ ​on​ ​a​ ​wall,​ ​appearing​ ​and disappearing,​ ​sometimes​ ​faint​ ​or​ ​fleeting,​ ​sometimes​ ​lingering​ ​in​ ​the​ ​projection​ ​for​ ​an oddly​ ​long​ ​time;​ ​another​ ​projection,​ ​running​ ​code,​ ​showing​ ​the​ ​secrets​ ​being​ ​translated into​ ​computer​ ​voices.​ ​There​ ​is​ ​a​ ​secrets​ ​input​ ​station,​ ​where​ ​viewers​ ​are​ ​invited​ ​to submit​ ​their​ ​secrets,​ ​which​ ​triggers​ ​another’s​ ​secret​ ​to​ ​print​ ​in​ ​response.​ ​There​ ​is a second small printer,​ ​algorithmically guided​ to print ​secrets​ ​for​ ​viewers​ ​to collect.​ ​There​ ​is​ ​an​ ​interactive​ ​sound​ ​installation,​ ​where​ ​viewers​ ​can​ ​hear​ ​human secrets​ ​eerily​ ​recited​ ​by​ ​computer​ ​voices,​ ​sometimes​ ​overlapping​ ​up​ ​to​ ​five​ ​voices​ ​at​ ​a time. Sound programming by Halsey Bergund. LED lightning design by Jie Qi, Chibitronics.


Fairmont Hotel, Verbena Room
Google Maps


Friday March 9th - Thursday March 15th,
9am - 6:30pm

TRUST (the presence of secrets), Boston MFA, mfaNOW Overnights, 2016

The first public installation of the work, exhibited four times in the fall of 2016 at the Boston MFA. The work included a secrets input station and two remote printing stations on different floors of the museum. The remote printers printed secretes and occasionally abstract photographs of other people entering secrets.

The Presence of Secrets, Re:publica Berlin, 2017

The first international exhibition of the work, at Re:publica Berlin 2017, The Presence of Secrets included an English/German secrets input station, and a remote printing station. Interview about the work here.

Nobody’s Listening in The Selfie Will Destroy You, ESC Atelier Rome, 2017

Presented in conjunction with the Fear and Loathing of the Online Self conference, organized by the Institute of Network Cultures. Bilingual (English/Italian) video installation with sound: projections of secrets collected by previous installations, with an audio track of secrets read by computer voices.

Nobody’s Listening in Machine Experience, Harvard Art Museums’ Lightbox Gallery, 2017

Included in Machine Experience, an experimental pop-up exhibition at Harvard Art Museums’ Lightbox Gallery, featuring five works that contended with the social and cultural implications of artificial intelligence. The exhibition included immersive 3-channel video, sound, and a secrets input station.

Secrets (my inner voice is a robot) Hacking Arts, MIT Media Lab, 2017

This performance and interactive installation was included in the Hacking Arts Conference at MIT. The work took shape as an interactive secrets box, participants could write secrets and submit them to a box, which responds through speaking, in a computerized voice, others’ secrets. There was also a live performance in which an actor responded to the secrets that played overhead in multiple computer voices.

The Future of Secrets (box) in Machine Experience II, Rainbow Unicorn, Berlin, 2018

Part of the Machine Experience II exhibition at Rainbow Unicorn in Berlin, in conjunction with Transmediale/Vorspiel. The interactive secrets box enables participants to submit a handwritten secret, and the box responds to the submission of a secret with a gentle vibration, followed by reading another’s secret in a computerized voice. The box speaks in both English and German.

Secrets (my inner voice is a robot) , metaLAB OpenLab, Harvard University, 2018

Interactive secrets box presented at metaLAB OpenLab. Participants can enter secrets into box and the box responds with others’ secrets, as well as light and vibration. Secrets are added to the secrets database.

The Future of Secrets, SXSW Art Program, 2018

One of five installations included in the 2018 SXSW Art Program. Installation includes an interactive sound piece, a secrets input station and two secrets printers, two live projection works, and custom light display.

Artists & Contact

Sarah Newman is a Creative Researcher at metaLAB at Harvard, and a Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Working primarily in the area of installation art, she develops projects that deal with technology’s role in culture, examining the significance of the current moment both playfully and critically. Newman holds a BA in Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis and an MFA in Imaging Arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology; she has exhibited work in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Berlin, and Rome, and has held artist residencies in Germany and Sweden. Her current work explores the social and philosophical dimensions of artificial intelligence, the curious intersections of the human and the nonhuman, and using art as a means of engagement, education, and critique.


Jessica Yurkofsky is a designer with roots in ethnography, computer science, and place-making, and is a Creative Technologist at metaLAB at Harvard. Yurkofsky holds a BA in Sociology from Stanford University and a Masters in Urban Planning from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Her graduate work focused on seniors’ use of social media as a means of accessing dispersed social spaces and community. Yurkofsky’s interests include creative hacks, building things, and design interventions in community spaces, particularly libraries. She has been part of the teaching team of LABRARY and Library Test Kitchen; she is also a project lead on Curricle, a new course selection and visualization tool that maps the evolution of Harvard’s curriculum.


Rachel Kalmar is a data scientist, Berkman Klein Fellow, and world record holder for number of wearable sensors worn continuously. Wrangling noisy data, she investigates how to make wearable and sensor data useful and interactive. A Stanford neuroscience PhD, Rachel has spent over a decade using data to explain, predict and influence behavior. Rachel focuses on the application of data and the broader ecosystems within which it exists. What are barriers to data access, sharing and interoperability, and how can we enable more open data ecosystems to better serve the public interest? Rachel is an alumna of Stanford's Neurosciences Program, the Hasso Plattner Institute for Design (aka the d.school), UCSD Physics, The Salk Institute, Singularity University, Rock Health, and Misfit Wearables.


Please send all inquiries to Sarah Newman

Copyright © 2018 Sarah Newman all rights reserved

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