Like Pearls by Morehshin Allahyari is an animated and interactive mash-up of the Farsi spam Allahyari receives in her mailbox.
Already from its name, which recalls “Boundless Informant”, the software used by NSA for analyzing and visualizing data, Open Informant by Superflux manifests itself as a project that intends to investigate the subject of state surveillance. The work consists of two components: an application for smartphones and a wearable badge. The app searches through our personal communications using the same key-terms sought by the NSA, considering them potential signs of risks to national security. Once identified the app transmits these bits of conversations via bluetooth to a wearable and fully customizable badge, which displays them on its display using electronic ink. The badge, worn with ostentation on our own body, puts under our personal conversations under the spotlight, in opposition to the secret and furtive manner in which the State analyses the communications of its citizens. A form of peaceful protest that puts ourselves in the front line, publicly revealing not only our words, but also our faces and bodies, in contrast to the depersonalization and the anonymity made possible by the virtual network within which we exchange most of our conversations today. Open Informant questions the intrusiveness of forms of mass surveillance implemented by democratic governments in the specific context of an increasingly digital and interconnected society: the gradual transposition of our lives on the net is what made Datagate possible and continues to make possible a type of highly invasive surveillance, able to overwhelm every individual’s right to privacy. Ylenia Cafaro