Trevor Paglen’s Selfie Tool Reveals What AI Thinks of You

In further news: Daniel Buren painting slashed at Paris’s Centre Pompidou; Ai Weiwei protests Haus der Kunst’s layoffs

Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen use the ImageRoulette tool. Courtesy: Kate Crawford

Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen use the ImageNet Roulette tool. Courtesy: Kate Crawford

Artist Trevor Paglen’s latest AI tool, ImageNet Roulette, has gone viral with thousands of people using the technology to categorize their selfies. The digital tool, developed by Paglen and AI researcher Kate Crawford for an exhibition at Fondazione Prada, Milan, allows users to upload a selfie which the AI tool then labels with a classifier. The technology has been trained on the person categories of ImageNet, an image database of more than 14 million labelled images sorted into over 20,000 categories. The person tag contains 2833 sub-categories which classifies people into types including race, nationality, profession, economic statue, behaviour etc. The tool, which is available to use online, states that ‘ImageNet contains a number of problematic, offensive and bizarre categories […]. Some use misogynistic or racist terminology. Hence, the results ImageNet Roulette returns will also draw upon those categories.’ Results posted by users on Twitter already show the bias of the technology, a point which the developers of ImageNet Roulette hope to draw attention to: ‘we want to shed light on what happens when technical systems are trained on problematic training data. AI classifications of people are rarely made visible to the people being classified. ImageNet Roulette provides a glimpse into that process – and to show the ways things can go wrong.’

An art installation comprised of 299 trees in a stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria has been heavily criticized by the country’s far-right political party and used as a campaign issue. The installation, by Swiss artist Klaus Littmann, saw the installation of a large number of trees in a 30,000 seat football stadium commissioned by Jörg Haider, former leader of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which today is used primarily by a second league football team whose supporters do not fill the stadium. The project aims to draw attention to the threat of climate change on our planet’s ecosystem. The installation has been misrepresented by the far-right, who falsely claimed the project was funded by taxpayers, and called on protesters to storm the site with chainsaws. Speaking to Deutsche Welle, Littmann explained why the right has rejected the project: ‘I think it has a lot to do with the history of this stadium. The city is still indebted because of it. The stadium cost nearly €100 million and the population is still paying for it; it's still an extreme burden on the city budget and for the citizens. That has always been a contentious political issue.’

Artist and activist Ai Weiwei has staged a spontaneous protest at Haus der Kunst, Munich, where staff are facing layoffs due to ongoing financial difficulties. Over the weekend, Ai staged an impromptu protest, which included him appearing at the entrance to galleries and checking tickets at the entrance to the museum’s Markus Lüpertz exhibition. Ai has since posted a photograph on his Instagram account showing him speaking to the museum’s director with the caption ‘Ai Weiwei debating the decision to outsource Munich Haus de[r] Kunst staff with Director Dr Bernhard Spies.’ In an official statement released by Haus der Kunst, a representative said: ‘The management is sticking to its promise to make the restructuring process as socially acceptable as possible, while maintaining as many jobs as possible and without any loss of income.’

A man armed with a knife has seriously damaged a painting by conceptual artist Daniel Buren at Paris’s Centre Pompidou. The attack, which took place on 12 September, saw the armed suspect attack Buren’s Peinture (Manifestation 3) (1967). The suspect was detained by the museum’s security shortly after attack and is currently undergoing psychiatric assessment. Buren has been informed of the incident.

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