The digital haunting of Brighton

A new festival exploring our reliance on and trust of the digital systems and machines that surround us every day will be taking place in locations across Brighton over the period 21-23 April.

The Haunted Random Forest Festival is co-organised by researchers at the Sussex Humanities Lab, inviting participants to better understand the way humans interact with and speak about the myriad of digital interfaces and machines that permeate our everyday lives.

The three days of events begin on Friday with Into the Forest, a day of talks at Sussex Humanities Lab on the Falmer campus, before continuing on Saturday with Machine Ghosts of Brighton, a free walking tour which aims to reveal the city as a machine, writing and rewriting the history of itself through the machines, networks and algorithms that the public engage with on a daily basis.

Saturday evening brings Finding Human Ghosts in the Algorithmsa free night of talks that seeks to expose the ‘human’ ghosts in the machines of everyday life, from cloud computing to the analytics of Amazon Echo and how our reliance on systems whose workings are hidden from may pose larger questions about how exposed we become to the humans behind these machines and networks in future.

Speaking at Finding Human Ghosts in the Algorithms are:

  • Ruth Catlow, an artist, curator and co-founder of Furtherfield, an artist-led organisation for labs, debates and exhibitions around critical questions in arts, technology and society;
  • Natalie D. Kane, a curator for digital culture innovation lab FutureEverything, researcher at consulting and creative group Changeist and a Visiting Lecturer at Instituto de Europeo Design in Barcelona;
  • and Ramon Amaro, an Associate Lecturer in Visual Cultures, and PhD researcher at the Digital Culture Unit of the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Finally, on Saturday and Sunday the Lighthouse will be hosting three brand-new installation artworks exploring the festival topics:

  • In Dark Age of Connectionism, Wesley Goatley explores the hidden capacities of always-listening devices such as the Amazon Echo, and the capacities we have to unravel the hidden functions of the massive systems which underpin these devices.
  • Emma Harrison’s Engineering togetherness: An OCEAN of (human) fragments is an installation that aims to draw attention to the effects we are capable of having online following the US election and the Vote Leave campaign
  • Faces in the Clouds, by Henry Cooke, is an ongoing, automated exploration of machine perception. It asks when a machine can perceive the world, how does that perception compare to our own?

Wesley Goatley, a researcher at the Sussex Humanities Lab and one of the curators of the festival, said:

"The festival was a commission from the Sussex Humanities Lab, an opportunity to think about how our research could reach spaces outside of academia, in the wider community surrounding us. 

“We're very excited to be presenting such a diverse programme of activities and voices, and we really hope that the festival creates opportunities for the Lab's research into machine learning to connect with the population of the city and beyond." | #HauntedRandom 

By: Patrick Reed
Last updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2017