Attachment, serendipitous algorithmic encounters


Questioning our general fascination with automation, Attachment explores the lack of serendipitous communications that arises alongside the notion of automation and machine learning. Colombini, inspired by the machines of Swiss sculptor Tinguely, has created a machine that allows one to send messages into the air using a biodegradable balloon. The messages are entered via a website, printed by the machine with a code, slipped into a biopolymer cylinder, attached to a balloon and released into the air. The balloon then travels haphazardly to a potential recipient. Colombini states the machine and the technology with which it is built, allows us to communicate differently and rediscover the unexpected, the random, and the accidental. In his navigation of the social and technological systems across which communications flow, Colombini satirically takes on the tensions and dilemmas of living and communicating with machines. In the past year the discourse surrounding algorithms and automation has quickly captured public imagination and attention. These technological objects have shaped all aspects of society from the optimisation of our work life to suggesting where and what to eat. As contemporary technological development moves toward behavioural and cognitive automation, these technological objects are no longer a means for the selection and generation of information but instead are seen as social objects that play a part in the organisation of our everyday. These computational processes index, sort and quantify every aspect of the public with which they interact. In addition, they are beginning to become part of the landscape of online communication — from automated emails to machine- learning bots to AI meeting schedulers — giving rise to a new public order of humans, information and machines. While these systems have brought about improvements to labour and standards of living, they are instrumentalised as a means to increase capital, anticipate cycles of attention and present us with a quantified picture of ourselves. This entanglement of the market and human experience has led to a dark utopic vision of the constant connection between human and machines and the communications they regulate. The proposition put forward by Colombini sits somewhere between satire and critique much like the Métamatics from which it takes its inspiration. It questions these constant connections and the introduction of algorithms and their automations as interface in our society. It embraces the convenience of an automated system, making light of complex processes that perform mundane tasks, while simultaneously questioning how might chance encounters happen in worlds where communications are automated, regulated and filtered. While this poetic machine provides little insight on the fundamental principle governing the machines embedded in our everyday, it actively engages with the issues regarding the world we are building for ourselves. It does not resist automation or aim to become a criticism of a technological future. Instead it wistfully asks us where does serendipity and chance lie when we aim to quantify all aspects of our human experience or whether we will encounter them at all.


David Colombini – Attachment