Captured by an Algorithm is a commemorative plate series that looks at romance novels through the lens of the Amazon Kindle Popular Highlight algorithm. A passage in a Kindle e-book becomes a Popular Highlight after a certain number of people independently highlight the same passage. Popular Highlights show up as underlined when reading the book on Kindle. Each plate features one Popular Highlight from a romance novel and a landscape generated by running Photoshop’s Photomerge algorithm on romance novel covers. Over seventy thousand individual acts of highlighting were used to determine the content for this work telling the story of the loneliness, grief, vulnerability, and discontent felt by the readers. This work reveals a glimpse of a positive, anonymous social network emerging unintentionally through this Kindle feature. The project draws attention to this existing example of collective social support to change society’s vision for the future of social technologies.
Sophia Brueckner is a futurist artist/designer/engineer. Inseparable from computers since the age of two, she believes she is a cyborg. As an engineer at Google, she designed and built products used by millions. At RISD and the MIT Media Lab, she researched the simultaneously empowering and controlling nature of technology with a focus on haptics and social interfaces. Her work has been featured internationally by Artforum, SIGGRAPH, The Atlantic, Wired, the Peabody Essex Museum, Portugal’s National Museum of Contemporary Art, and more. Brueckner is the founder and creative director of Tomorrownaut, a creative studio focusing on speculative futures and sci-fi-inspired prototypes. She is currently an artist-in-residence at Nokia Bell Labs and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan teaching Sci-Fi Prototyping, a course combining sci-fi, prototyping, and ethics. Her ongoing objective is to combine art, design, and engineering to inspire a more positive future.