If you wandered through the lofty streets of SoHo and Little Italy between November and December, you may have stumbled upon a minimalist tech store reminiscent of Apple’s Genius Bar without the plethora of fruit branded products and blue shirt know-it-alls. Not quite an outpost of a tech monolith or a new startup but what you came upon was The Glass Room, a pop-up exhibition organized by Tactical Technology Collective, a Berlin-based non-profit working to promote technological activism, done in collaboration with Mozilla, the non-profit behind the popular web browser of the same name.
The glitzy and pristine white space was filled to the brim with tech-inflected artworks, many of which were disguised as objects you would typically find in a high-end tech store. But the sterile appearance was ultimately a façade; there was no consumer tech for sale within the space. The works were joined by the desire to expose viewers to the malicious underbelly of the wonderfully convenient Information Age.
Separated into different categories depending on the type of issues explored in the works, the pieces were as compelling as they were harrowing. Forgot your password? by Aram Bartholl consists of a series of books where the artist compiled the 4.6 million passwords leaked by Linkedin in 2012 within their pages.
Located in the Data Detox Bar section of the exhibition, Julian Olivier and Danja Vasiljev’s Newstweek is a device that manipulates online news headlines that you don’t like or don’t fit your narrative into ones that are more “appropriate” to your sensibilities.
In Unfitbit by Surya Mattu and Tega Brain, a FitBit is attached to objects like a metronome or a drill to trick the device into thinking you are working out, thus selling fake, inaccurate data to your health insurance that hopefully lowers your premium.
Although more and more people seem to be aware of the dark side of technology, the exact extent of which our data is sold and tampered with isn’t always clear, a facet which the exhibition seeks to clarify. “The Glass Room was inspired by two things: First, a desire to make the questions raised by living in a data society tangible and accessible using real projects, humor, and good design. Secondly, to use the language of commerce as a way to critique our enthusiasm for new technologies,” says Stephanie Hankey, a co-founder of Tactical Technology Collective and an organizer of the event.
The immaculate illusion of a tech store seems like the ultimate metaphor to achieve these goals. “We wanted there to be a moment of confusion, and also to use the language of technology consumption to allow people to explore different perspectives,” Hankey adds. “The ‘ingeniouses’ for example, are there to give a different kind of advice than people are used to in tech stores, and they have nothing to sell.”
Although The Glass Room has already concluded, full documentation of the works can be found on the project’s website, along with a series of informative resources, and a hilarious 8-day “Data Detox Kit” meant to cleanse you of your over-connectivity and oversharing tendencies.
Check out more of Tactical Technology Collective’s projects and exhibitions here.