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Open Access Publications from the University of California

No in Disguise: Algorithmically Targeted Conversations about Sexual Consent

  • Author(s): Boas, Simon
  • Advisor(s): Sack, Warren
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

As the distinction between our online and offline selves continues to collapse thanks to the permeation of networked digital services into nearly every aspect of our lives, how we are able to express ourselves in digital space holds direct consequence for the world we experience offline. The way sexual relationships and power are pre-structured in online dating apps provides a focused example. This paper describes the author’s artwork No in Disguise, an interactive multimedia installation that features procedurally generated video of men reading transcripts of conversations the author’s collaborator, Kris Blackmore, held with male dating app users who expressed harmful attitudes toward women in their profiles. The work responds to arguments that claim that the harassment of women is merely the product of a deviant male minority. The author wrote software that deconstructs and randomly recombines the video of the readers’ facial features as they read, creating an endless procession of unfamiliar faces that look like every man and no man in particular. The installation also features video of the readers responding to the statements they read as well as an iOS app on several iPods through which visitors may read the original conversation transcripts. In this paper the author discusses his motivation, gives context for the project, and describes the decisions made at each step of designing the installation while integrating a discussion about the cultural narratives of gender, power, and permissions that social media platforms reflect and reinforce.

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