Invasions of users’ privacy can occur quite easily today as a consequence of the Digital Age, new technological advances, and the new economic models derived from them. Therefore, reflecting on the need for the implementation of new policies regarding users’ data and privacy is beginning to be frequently discussed on a global scale.
The context of this research falls within emerging media art practices and environments that use the hybridization of art, technology, and science at the cores of their practices—in particular, the fields of the arts, architecture, and entertainment—paying particular attention to the new technologies’ rapid expansion in the age of ubiquitous computing, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. When designing public interactive environments with emerging media tools, new advances in computing and data collection techniques from the users can significantly enhance the public’s engagement and interaction with the designed space. Consequently, ethical questions arise, as the ambiguity surrounding user information extraction and analysis may lead to privacy issues and biases.
This research showcases how awareness, acknowledgment, and further decision-making in data curation and algorithmic processes can directly impact and avoid issues of surveillance, privacy, and bias in emerging media practices. To achieve these results, this dissertation first examines the leading emerging technologies and developments that have led to today’s Digital Age, emphasizing the role of communication media and social, cultural, and economic models to later focus on the evolution of explorations of art and technologies in the context of digital culture. The aim is to gain a better understanding of some of the core characteristics and elements that drive contemporary emerging media art practices, especially those involving user interaction. These topics are studied through three different environments: the socio-economic, the artistic, and the pedagogical standpoint.
A series of research methodologies are designed, developed, implemented, and analyzed, achieving informed results. These methodologies are aimed to extract the
presence of surveillance, privacy, and bias through qualitative analysis of a series of emerging media projects and in a series of academic emerging media programs. The case studies serve as the area for explorations and proofs of possible technological ethical incursions in the fields of the arts, architecture, and entertainment. A deeper inquiry of ethical incursions is performed through the last and largest case study, an interactive art project that merges artificial intelligence and the visual arts in the context of public space.
From the observations extracted from analyzing the case studies, four main tendencies are presented: ignorance, neglect, advocacy, and opportunity. The investigation begins to showcase multiple projects that feature ignorance and unawareness regarding the issues in the study and projects that incur neglection by allowing users’ data to be violated. Although not all findings tend to continue to reinforce these issues, this research found other projects that advocate purposefully and intentionally for awareness and consent. This last part of the study provides considerable value to the research by generating a discourse around finding areas for opportunities described as the CounterBias strategies. These CounterBias strategies are proposed to contribute to the practice at large of new ethical frameworks in the field of emerging media practices.
In summary, this dissertation culminates by first showcasing that incurring bias in interactive media can be avoided by acknowledging that contemporary social issues derived from digitalization can also happen in the arts. Then, it examines informed decisions on how a user’s data is used. Finally, this dissertation communicates that with the implementations of computational means and decision-making in the arts, it is possible to address privacy and bias issues, propose solutions, and come up with innovative and contemporary practices. This opens avenues for CounterBias strategies to serve as examples when developing policies at the governmental and institutional levels and contributes to a more ethical framework and better practices in digital culture.