Facebook Algorithmic Factory: Katarzyna Szymielewicz, Vladan Joler, Paweł Janicki

artistic research project + interactive installation, 2017
presentation: May 18, 2017 / 11 AM

“Facebook Algorithmic Factory” sheds light on invisible processes that happen inside of the World’s largest social network. Inside of this black box, non-transparent algorithms are deciding what kind of content will become part of our reality, what will be censored or deleted, which ideas will spread and which news will gain most visibility. They also define new forms of labour and exploitation. Users are no longer clients. We only provide data, which serves as raw material in the production of digital profiles – key commodity on internet stock markets.

“Facebook Algorithmic Factory” generates enormous amount of wealth and power, creating a deep economic gap between the ones who own and control the means of production and the users who often live below the poverty line. Deep under the layers of algorithmic data processing there can be hidden new forms of human rights violation, new mechanisms of exploitation and manipulation that we no longer control. Our first step of fighting back is to make them visible.

We invite you to take a walk through Facebook Algorithmic Factory, guided by characters who have their own story to tell. It is quite likely that you or your friends have had similar experience. Surprisingly well-profiled but not-very-welcome advertisement on your wall? Sudden shift in the news feed that you cannot explain or control? Strange feeling that you have paid more than you would expect for a service or a product bought on-line? Welcome to the world governed by non-transparent algorithms.

In this installation we use patents registered by Facebook and research and visualisations developed by Share Labs to reveal the mechanics and logic of the Facebook Algorithmic Factory. Adopting the company’s own language and terminology, we explain what data is collected, how it is processed and what conclusions are drawn on this basis. It will take time to understand and follow those processes on the Map. But don’t give up! Knowledge is power.

Follow the guides to the world, which is hidden behind friendly, blue interface.

User’s manual:

1. Go to wrocenter.pl/faf.
2. If you have headphones with you, connect them to the device. If not, ask a volunteer for help. Choose the story you want to listen to.
3. You can listen to Julia, Ralph and Magda talking about their experience with Facebook; you will hear the “voice of the company” calmly responding to their questions and frustrations.
4. The beam of light, which you can follow on the Map, reveals the logic of algorithmic data processing, which affected our characters.
5. The video projection highlights the “data factory” elements associated with each of the listened stories.
6. You can change the story and the language any time.
7. Also, have a look at the table with the documentations – at the end of each story, the lamp will highlight materials associated with the listened story.


The authors would like to thank:

Faith Bosworth – for her invaluable input in developing this concept
Jarek Grzesica – for relentless struggle with the audio material
Dominika Krzywotulska-Grydlik, Mateusz Grydlik and Ralph Talmont – for lending their voices
Michał Mach and Ann Obem – for technical and moral support