Parsons / The New School

BFA Communication Design

Thesis 2015–16

Maurann Stein
Artificial Art

At this moment in time, tools such as Mechanical Turk are on the verge of being “locked-in”: permanently fixing the way we approach the global workforce. Naturally, once designs get locked in it becomes challenging to break free from the modes of thinking they have gradually established. In the case of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace where Requesters post repetitive, creatively-stagnating tasks for a distributed workforce to complete for a miserly commission, it is crucial to question and to think about the responsibility the service carries in the creation of new social and cultural sensibilities.

Through this absurd exhibition and auction, Artificial Art presents traces of online labor while working within the confines of MTurk’s privacy policy and terms of use. While MTurk uses Artificial Artificial Intelligence—cheap human workers from across the globe—to execute dull, repetitive tasks that computers should be able to do but can’t yet, the project puts their creativity into use. I commissioned anonymous workers to respond to an automated task-generator: an algorithm that constructs various drawing instructions, ultimately flipping the roles the platform ascribes to its users. In this case, the logic behind the instructions is artificial, however the workers’ results celebrate what it means to be human.

The art created by the “artists” (recognized by their unique Provider ID), was later presented in a book form, then became an elevated artifact at a gallery space in DUMBO, and was eventually sold at the live auction.

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Parsons / The New School

BFA Communication Design
Thesis 2015–16