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Thursday Night Live

The first Vertical Atlas public event, with Benjamin Bratton, Victoria Ivanova and Marten Kaevats. Lab

Lab session 1 - User

Abandoning the fork between humans and non-humans and anthropocentric views on the notion, User is understood solely as an empty position in a platform that any addressable entity can (temporarily) step into at any given moment of time. Lab

Lab session 2 - Data Justice

Who gets mapped when it’s undesired, and who is unaccounted for when necessary to be seen? The stateless, the vulnerable and the marginalised often provide a testing ground for novel identification and control systems, due to the lack of legal leverage. Lab

Lab session 3 - Identity

Our identities and attached histories are a part of social and psychological fabric. In principle, they should be treated separately from the national platforms, and from the legal concerns of identification.

Group 2 (Pablo DeSoto, Alison Killing) explored a method of ‘throwing’ two specific User positions (with attached actions) through the model of the Stack. The approach focused on two humans actors, relating to the  six layers from a position of a certain precarity: an Amazon warehouse worker in the process of creating a Union, and a Sub-saharan refugee moving through Mali and Morocco on its way to Spain. By listing examples and instances of how each layer gets triggered, participants were able to contextualise newer developments (e.g. Frontex and Digital Fortress Europe) next to more traditional examples (e.g. Schengen borders and EU legal systems), highlighting their historical continuity.

Group 3 (Benjamin Bratton, Victoria Ivanova, Ben Cerveny, Marten Kaevats) chose Estonian e-residency and Kratt law as a case study. The group explored a scenario in which a resident of Iran could assume a certain subset of rights (the e-residency bundle) of an Estonian citizen by registering an algorithmic entity in their name. The group explored a scenario when a kratt gained more legal agency that a natural person, and this discrepancy could be used for the person’s advantage. If a human possesses specific knowledge, for example, musical talent, but is unable to economically scale her practice in Iran, she might teach the Kratt to play music. By operating and performing within European borders, the Kratt could generate extra value, and gain financial support for her practice back in Iran. The legal agency of AI could also be exercised in a form of real estate negotiations in foreign states. These speculations provided a glimpse into possible expansion of EU’s legal operation on global scale.

Ongoing Research

In this first Vertical Atlas Lab, many questions and approaches were articulated that will return in the forthcoming Vertical Atlas sessions. At the same time, each following lab may discover perspectives and grounds that will suggest a reconsidering of  the assessments of the previous conversations. The text of this very report, as well as its method of documentation, is fluid and subject to change, and will serve as a working draft for future participants. A consistent approach to documentation — and an actual Vertical Atlas — can only be fully established at the completion of the entire series.

Kévin Bray
Het Nieuwe Instituut, Hivos, Stedelijk Museum
Benjamin Bratton, Arthur Steiner, Leonardo Dellanoce, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer