Somerset House podcast

3: Dopamine Detox & Resisting Surveillance | 24/7

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How many times have you looked at your phone today? Artist Mat Collishaw draws parallels between behavioural experiments on birds and the highly addictive nature of social media. And Artist Hasan Elahi explains how a false investigation led to a 15 years project, sharing his personal data and images with the FBI and public. 

Artists explore the non-stop nature of modern life.

Mat Collishaw’s work The Machine Zone was inspired by the behavioural experiments of American psychologist B.F. Skinner (1904 – 1990) whose work is widely referenced in relation to the algorithms which drive interactions on social media. Using birds and other small mammals, Skinner’s ‘operant conditioning chamber’ investigated the subconscious primal side of the brain involved in motivated behaviours. He demonstrated that random rewards create a constant uncertainty that encourages a behavioural loop. Collishaw worked with animatronics designer Adam Keenan to create these mechanised pigeons exhibiting obsessive repetitive behaviour. 
Skinner’s ghost has persisted into the modern day, a quiet spectre among our statuses, likes, comments, and shares. Today an average user spends 1/7th of their waking lives on social platforms, and we owe some of this apparent addiction to Skinner’s research. His work followed on from philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s research into human motivation (‘the utilitarian self’ as pleasure seeking and pain avoiding) as demonstrated in Bentham’s ‘Table of the Springs of Action’. 
Over the last fifteen years Hasan Elahi has generated online systems to share personal data and photographic evidence of his whereabouts at all times with the FBI, as a result of their mistakenly putting him on a no-fly list after the events of 9–11. In his work, Scorpion W2, 2019 he mines this ongoing personal database to create large immersive collages picturing all the meals he’s eaten, beds he’s slept in and airports he’s flown to. The overall pattern is the current operational camouflage pattern of the American military – standardized across all divisions, units and countries in 2019 – but Elahi has changed the colours to those that feature in the test pattern shown during a U.S. television emergency broadcast.
Featuring contributions from exhibition curator Sarah Cook and Jonathan Reekie, co-curator of 24/7 and Director of Somerset House. 
The exhibition 24/7 - A Wake Up Call For Our Non-Stop World at Somerset House takes visitors on a multi-sensory journey from the cold light of the moon to the fading warmth of sunset through five themed zones and contains over 50 multi-disciplinary works that will provoke and entertain. The exhibition runs at Somerset House until 23 February 2020.
Producer: Eleanor Scott Sound Design: Harry Murdoch Mixed by Nick Ryan

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