Data Catchers (2012)


Formerly celebrated as the domain of pseudonymity and anonymity, digital information spaces have gradually become structured with regard to real persona. It is no secret anymore that each one of us is perfectly profiled not only on the Internet through websites we choose to visit or searches and clicks we make, but also through our activities on other electronic communication networks such as mobile telephony. Consumer-tracking technologies are fuelled by today’s commercial interest in targeted marketing and personalized ads, whereas state interventions allege conserving social morals, ensuring criminal justice and protecting intellectual property rights as excuses for data retention. The consequences are a popular matter of debate when it comes to cases of top-down mass suppression of freedom of expression and access to information. What is often overlooked is the inevitable intimidation of individuals in the most casual online activities, the subtle but constant inner anxiety towards accessing commonplace information, and the consequent self-censorship that takes place in the everyday.

We are becoming more and more concerned with “fashioning” our profiles and restraining our most genuine curiosities to achieve profiles that perfectly fit in societal norms. We indeed live in a “global village”, not in the positive sense the phrase used to connote, but rather through what we call “neighborhood’s pressure” in Turkish language, the domineering influence of peers on the individual in miniature communities.

Data Catchers is a series of speculative archaeology objects that address this rising phenomenon. They are conceptualized as subversive instruments allegedly developed by individuals who try to cope with the dilemma of maintaining a decent profile and accessing the desired information that would threaten that profile. Inspired by the long tradition of animal trapping, the instruments ceaselessly try to sense ambient data propagated by electromagnetic waves and confine it in its most physical and encrypted form in the user’s personal inventory. Keeping the user’s anonymity is achieved by avoiding decryption. This ironically prevents the user herself from knowing what exactly has been captured, whereas grants her with the satisfaction of laying her hands on what was potentially out of reach. The instruments are products of fine and exhausting handcraft, evidential to an overwhelming thirst for information.