WTRS Opening and Panel on Algorithmic Bias and Social Media Visibility at gallery@Calit2

Edit: In case you missed it, here’s the YouTube stream:

January 15th… “What the Robot Saw” opens online at gallery@Calit2!

I’ll be giving a talk about WTRS, and then I’ll be hosting a panel discussion on the broader issues of algorithmic bias and social media visibility surrounding the project. I’m honored that these amazing guest panelists have agreed to join us:
Memo Akten, Dr. Sophie Bishop, Dr. Aylin Caliskan, and Dr. Daniel James Joseph

Please join us for this online event! January 15th, 10AM-Noon PST


What the Robot Saw in “Appearances” online exhibition at Upstream Gallery

Psuper psyched and honored to have “What the Robot Saw” included in the “Appearances” online exhibition at Upstream Gallery.
Curated by the amazing Joesphine Bosma! Online Opening: Saturday, September 26th, 17.00 (CEST) (8AM Pacific Daylight Time.)

Curated by Josephine Bosma
26 September – 24 October 2020

Participating artists:
Addie Wagenknecht, Annie Abrahams & Daniel Pinheiro, Amy Alexander, Claudia Del & Jaume Clotet, Evelina Domnitch & Dimitry Gelfand, Knowbotiq Research, Nancy Mauro-Flude, PolakVanBekkum, Stephanie Syjuco, Valentina Gal, Winnie Soon

Online Opening, Saturday September 26th, 17.00 (CEST)

Location: http://www.upstream.gallery

Fronting Motion at Upstream Gallery
PolakVanBekkum’s Fronting Motion, as part of the online exhibition on upstream.gallery, will also be exhibited physically in Upstream Gallery’s private viewing space for the first week of the show (26 September – 3 October)

appearance | əˈpɪər(ə)ns |

1 the way that someone or something looks: she checked her appearance in the mirror.
• an impression given by someone or something: she read it with every appearance of interest.

2 an act of performing or participating in a public event: he is well known for his television appearances.

3 an act of arriving or becoming visible: the sudden appearance of her daughter startled her.
• a process of coming into existence or use: the appearance of the railway.

Appearances exist on the edge of reality and perception. Appearances can be sudden or take their time to show. They can be lasting, decaying or downright misleading. We often see what we want to see. We more often see what we expect to see. Most of the time the poetry of that situation escapes us.

The information society is also the society of the shattered mirror and the fractured lens. Countless reflections of and on the real make up a large labyrinth of fragmented truths, half-truths and fictions. Together they form a beautiful but also daunting abyss of appearances. The technological means surrounding us create an extreme density of these reflections, which in turn impacts on existence itself. New perception and navigational skills need to be learned. Of these, basic mechanical skills are relatively easy to obtain, but for a profound understanding, of what we see and how and why we see it, we need different kinds of skillsets. One important thing we still lack in this context is a new, extended form of intuition, a non-verbal knowledge grown from extensive, genuinely authentic experiences of various network modalities. This exhibition offers a range of them. It shows a variety of ways artists use the Greater Cloud, the mother of all networks and cloud platforms: the internet.

Josephine Bosma (1962) is a freelance critic and theorist working in the expanded field of art and new media. She is specialized in art and the Internet, and lectures and publishes internationally. In 2011 NAi/Institute for Network Cultures published Josephine Bosma’s book Nettitudes – Let’s Talk Net Art.

Image: Amy Alexander, What The Robot Saw (still) (2020)

“What the Robot Saw” in XCOAX 2020! Also, I wrote a paper.

Psyched to have What the Robot Saw as part of the xcoax 2020 conference/exhibition July 8th – 10th!
8th Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X

Although originally scheduled for Graz, Austria. this year XCOAX be online.
What the Robot Saw’s page is here. It includes a video presentation by yours truly, and some other goodies.

“xCoAx is an exploration of the intersection where computational tools and media meet art and culture, in the form of a multi-disciplinary enquiry on aesthetics, computation, communication and the elusive X factor that connects them all.
xCoAx has been an occasion for international audiences to meet and exchange ideas, in search for interdisciplinary synergies among computer scientists, artists, media practitioners, and theoreticians at the thresholds between digital arts and culture.”

Also, I’ve written a new paper about the Robot and Algorithmic Bias. It’s an extended version the XCOAX paper, with additional writing on the algorithmic bias issues in the context of visibility within social networks.
The Algorithm is the Message: What the Robot Saw

What the Robot that Saw Doesn’t See — aka Coronavirus meets Moderation Algorithms

What the Robot Saw has recently moved to Twitch. (Though you can always find it at the WTRS homepage, regardless of where the stream is.) Despite their being gaming-centered, Twitch seems to be working out well: The compression algorithms are presumably designed for computer animated games — so, minus a few nitpicks, the image quality for WTRS’s graphics is much better than it was on YouTube. It’s easy for the Robot to start and stop streams throughout the day. And best of all — so far their “community guidelines” algorithms aren’t knocking the Robot offline at every turn. (For the record, the Robot is an upstanding member of its community — just look at all the recycling it does… )

To be fair, I understand YouTube’s predicament in trying to train AI’s to filter out troll videos: I know it’s hard because I’ve been training the Robot to do that kind of thing for over a year. In the Robot’s case, it curates a small number of videos to begin with. If the Robot overaggressively culls content, it doesn’t knock that content offline entirely. In YouTube’s case, it’s a bigger deal, and can have a potentially bigger impact. ‘What the Robot Saw’ is a silly robot film, but it’s about the serious concern of making videos (and by extension, their humans) invisible if they don’t fit the mass popularity algorithm. Usually it happens by burying them in recommendations and search results. Now the “misfits” are being removed entirely. The Robot will be OK. But what — and who — else is not getting seen that should be? YouTube has become a global meta-medium that influences how we perceive the culture of the moment. And it’s search algorithms, then, are a meta-meta-medium. So — this matters.

YouTube has said they’re trying to keep videos off their site that spread of disinformation about Coronavirus. And stopping disinformation is a good thing. But they’ve got a dilemma, because at the intersection of monetization, popularity, and fear lies disinformation. AI’s are notoriously imperfect moderators, so a lot of disinfo still gets out, while some amount of legitimate content gets censored. Both parts of this are worth keeping an eye on. Which will be hard to do, since not even Robots can see what isn’t there.

For now, here’s what the Robot does see. (BTW, I’ve finally had a chance to do some timing work on the animation and other cleanup. So, here we go:)

Live from the new reality — “What the Robot Saw” had to move

Hi all, hope you’re doing ok in this batshit crazy time…

Not the most important thing on the plate right now, but it’s been a strange time for “What the Robot Saw” too. I’d always thought the 24/7 YouTube archives would be some kind of strange time capsule of a slice of the world on the internet. I hadn’t anticipated that it would become a time capsule of a world moving *into* the internet. But as our collective Elvis left the building, so, naturally, did YouTube’s employees. That’s of course a good health move right now. But interestingly, they left a robot in charge of policing YouTube. Apparently their robot doesn’t like my robot — it started removing all ‘What the Robot Saw’s’ new streams from YouTube, labeling them as Community Violations. (You can’t make this stuff up folks; AI’s finally *are* taking over, and they’ve got their own robo-hegemony… )

Robowars aside, it seems to me like this is a moment when “What the Robot Saw” can be an interesting participant, as it watches so many of us move into YouTube. So I’m trying to keep it going by moving to Facebook Live. I haven’t worked out the tech at all yet to get it run continuously, create the archives, etc. So for now it’ll just run as much as I can keep it running manually.

The streams for now are at:
And as always, http://what-the-robot-saw.com has the latest, as well as links to all the video archives through March 17th.

Stay safe, all…

Sneak Peak: ‘What the Robot Saw’ is Live!

[Note: This post was edited in 8/2020 to embed stream from its current address.]

OK, here’s what I’ve been working on. It’s net art! (Not exactly like my old 90’s net art, but…)
And I’m happy to say that the amazing Curt Miller will be once again working with me to do some sound work on the project.

Is it really, really done? No.** Is it live already? Yes. So why not have a peek? I imagine I’ll be awkwardly promoting it for real soon enough:


What the Robot Saw

Welcome to Robot TV. What the Robot Saw’ (v 0.1 alpha) is a perpetual, robot-generated livestream film, curated and edited algorithmically from among the least viewed and subscribed YouTube videos uploaded over the past few hours. A Robot/AI filmmaker makes its way through the world of online video, focusing its attention on people who don’t usually get attention.

If the stream isn’t live, you can find recent archives here.

An invisible audience of software robots continually analyze content on the Internet. Videos by non-“YouTube stars” that algorithms don’t promote to the “recommended” sidebar or award “verified” status may be seen by few or no human viewers. For these videos, robots may be the primary audience. In ‘What the Robot Saw,’ the Robot is both AI voyeur and film director, depicting and magnifying the online personas of the subjects of a never-ending film.

Using computer vision, neural networks, and other robotic ways of seeing and understanding, the Robot continually selects, edits, and arranges recently uploaded public YouTube clips from among those with low subscriber and view counts, focusing on personal videos. A loose, stream-of-consciousness structure is developed as the Robot organizes the clips as a drift through neural network-determined groupings. As the Robot generates the film, it streams it live back to YouTube for public viewing. The film navigates a slice of social media that’s overlooked by the usual search and recommendation algorithms, thus largely only visible to robotic-algorithmic voyeurs.

As time zones around the globe sleep and wake, ‘What the Robot Saw’ follows the circadian rhythms of the world’s uploads. So tune in now and then. Robots never sleep*.

* For now, the live stream runs eighteen hours a day; there are one hour “intermissions” every four hours (and as needed for maintenance.) Archives of some recent streams are available on the Videos page or on the YouTube Channel.

‘What the Robot Saw’ is a non-commercial project.
** This is version 0.1-alpha, an initial implementation. There’s work still to be done in terms of structure, timing, sound, and AI. Versions focused on different content will also likely be spawned in the future.

Although the YouTube live stream is central to the project, the technical limitations of live streaming mean the image and sound quality are not ideal and may vary with network conditions. A high quality stream can be generated locally for art installations and screenings.

More videos, links, “how does it work, etc.” available at: