by Lindsey Nobel

Gridded People Series

In today’s inter-connected and data driven world, you enter the grid just moments after being born. The data generated by the simple act of living our lives is a commodity that is parsed, analyzed, commoditized, traded and sold. In return for our complete surrender to this invisible net of knowledge, we receive an email account, a social media presence, and a free place to store our data in the cloud. Everything we do from shopping, driving, eating, sleeping et cetera, creates a valuable data point that earns a profit for a corporation or expands the control of a governmental organization. We now voluntarily surrender our personal code of life in order to learn our ancestry by submitting our DNA to a private company, like 23 and Me. My art explores the boundary point when all of this information has left our control, and has been absorbed, organized and utilized by an entity that we are powerless over.

Even before Edward Snowden showed the world the true depth and inner workings of the NSA’s vast and secretive network, I have been exploring the information grid that is constantly running in the background of our lives through my drawing language since 1993. I strive, through my art, to express the enormous power that this personal data holds, and how freely we as a society are willing to release it into the grid. The Cambridge Analytica scandal after the 2016 US Presidential election is just one blatant example of how our data can be manipulated to shape the world we live in. As we continue to expand the data-sets of our lives, add more users to the grid, and grow more connected to each other, I use my art as medium to inspire the creation of new social constructs to address the problems and opportunities that the opening of this Pandora’s box of information has created.

Through this digital connectedness, executed via a simple search request, we all have the opportunity to create lasting bonds with people around the planet who share similar interests, beliefs, dreams and desires. The immense, personal data-set that now exists for the 3 billion smartphone users in the infosphere offers the promise of hope, as well as the specter of totalitarian control. As we approach the Singularity, where data driven artificial intelligence surpasses our own human intellectual limits, I incorporate the newfound hope that AI may serve humanity to obliterate the mistakes of the past into my work. My art is an expression of a deep felt desire to create a future where our data is used to expand our consciousness, and in turn, usher in a new era of peaceful co-existence for the benefit of humanity and the planet we occupy.