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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
i think i can speak to stuffed animals
I regret not being more thankful for my wonderful parents.
i had sex with my ex-boyfriend's dad
i've been cheated on and pretended i dont know
when i see cute things i want to hurt them
i can pickpocket. I enjoy it.
I was born intersex but I haven't told anyone, not even my parents
I HAVE A SECRET TWITTER ACCOUNT WITH 15,000 FOLLOWERS THAT I HAVEN'T TOLD ANYONE IN REAL LIFE ABOUT
my uncle lost his virginity to tyra banks...
I keep LSD in my philosophy books