The installation Platform Ghosts by Italian artist and designer Silvio Lorusso and German artist Sebastian Schmieg, in collaboration with Italian experimental musician LOREM, will open in the framework of Dopolavoro flagship.
You feel hurt, sad and abandoned: you’ve been ghosted. It has happened before, but this time is different. Your content was wiped out, your ability to interact is gone. This time you haven’t been just ghosted on a platform, but by the platform.
In their new installation Platform Ghosts, Silvio Lorusso and Sebastian Schmieg present a hollow wall structure that, akin to digital platforms, modulates various degrees of opacity and transparency. The artwork highlights the emotional dimension of private and working relationships managed through and by digital platforms, with a particular focus to what the artists call platform ghosting. Serving as an interface for a one-way communication between a ghosted user and platforms, the installation enacts a soliloquy that combines several voices into a single melancholic lamentation paired with a soundtrack by Italian experimental musician LOREM.
Platforms have developed more or less sophisticated techniques to ghost their users, which seamlessly combine with algorithmic management. Among these, there are temporary bans, sudden terminations of accounts, removal from the top of search results or the disappearance of the content of a user from other users’ timelines without the former realizing it (a technique generally called “shadow ban“).
In the context of personal relationships, ghosting is considered hurtful, rude and dehumanizing. In the context of platforms, ghosting makes digitally mediated labor even more precarious and atomized. When the threshold between work and life is very thin, the termination of a YouTube account can mean very different things: it can be a trifle for a casual user, but it can become a tragedy for a professional vlogger. This is equally true for those performing what academics Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri call ghost work: the hidden human labor powering apps and artificial intelligence systems.
Against this backdrop, Platform Ghosts anticipates a near future in which smart cities produce swarms of people (workers, citizens, etc.) who in certain contexts only exist as ghosts.