HEAD–Genève | Geneva, CH
2015 – 2016
ae.tax explores the near-future reality where data is a new layer, such as air, land, and water. This project investigates the possibility of data becoming basic representation of humans. The global data gathering results in creating the supranational network that is the output of people’s activity. It is the base for the sociopolitical fiction of ae.tax. Harnessing today’s enormous data is a way to prepare for what inevitably comes next: even bigger data.
We are living in the digital age. Today, technology is accessible and available to almost everybody. Its omnipresence creates the supranational connections that are not limited to any borders, territories, governance or nationalities. This global infrastructure seems accidental and deliberate at the same time. A result of the activity of users who unconsciously contribute to the expansion of such network on a daily basis. As our everyday is being deeply absorbed by technology in its various mobile forms that affects our actions and behaviours, it seems absolutely intentional at once.
The platform is a result of the planetary-scale computation. As Benjamin Bratton puts it, it is a system of subterranean infrastructure, constituted with software, hardware and citizens—users. More importantly, it is not a sovereign platform for states to imply, but an independent machine that absorbs functions of state and work of the governance.
The machine as a state generates new forms of sovereignty instead of employing the traditional models. It contradicts the Westphalian sovereignty that is the principle of international law. It states that each nation state has sovereignty over its territory and domestic affairs, to the exclusion of external powers. It is the rule of non-interference in another country’s domestic affairs. The Westphalian sovereignty serves as a simplified political-cartographic diagram of a state, where both the governance and citizenship are closely linked to specific territory. ae.tax is different. You qualify not because of location, but consciously and unconsciously providing personal data.
One might argue that such platform brings more justice and that digital world offers radical democracy with prevalent equality (as naively suggested almost 20 years ago by John Perry Barlow in A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.
The project explores and investigates the possible evolution of a state in the era of omnipresent technology. It is a sociopolitical fiction expressed through visual communication. The use of the visual language in the project, resembling commercial corporate identity, is to point out the blurred lines between state and corporation. Governments already make use of social software to “improve” citizens’ life quality.
Algorithmic governance seems not only plausible, but to some extent reasonable as well. It could facilitate the functioning of a state. Yet, we’ve never considered it to be entirely independent and unsupervised. We have been infatuated with the uncritical drive behind technology progress, when it is always assumed to be good and capable of solving any problem. Suddenly, we might have to surrender to machines, platforms, and algorithms. Do we want to become citizens caught in the algorithms which would define our realities and identities?