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Data Image Lab

Databites Session with Sasha Anikina

17th May 2023

Microsoft Teams

What can we see in the background of a video conference call? The daily practices of changing, concealing or performing the background for video conferencing reveal a symptomatic landscape of immaterial labour that records the changes in contemporary working conditions. Drawing on educational context, “credibility bookshelves,” sex cams, lifelogging and streaming practices, I consider the processes of professionalization of the background as visible evidence of pressures of representation that reveal the changing relationships to privacy and labour conditions. I introduce the idea of “labour of being seen”, arguing that it constitutes a separate dimension from performing for the gaze. Interspersed with architectures and structures both human and technical, intra- and supra-individual, the background reveals itself as a witness to, and a trace of, a variety of tactics and attitudes that reflect the individual users’ capacity to situate themselves within the architecture of the gaze. As a symptom, an environment, and a site of navigating the dynamics of vulnerability and professionalization, the background opens up multiple points of entry into the consideration of video conferencing as affective infrastructure.

Dr Sasha Anikina is a Senior Lecturer in Media Practices at the Art & Media Technology Department, WSA. Sasha’s Recent and upcoming publications are:
Things in the Background: Video Conferencing and the Labor of Being Seen (2023)
Procedural Animism: The Trouble of Imagining a (Socialist) AI (2022)


About the databites

Databites are monthly sessions, with one or more researchers / specialists / practitioners, from across the disciplines, leading conversations on aspects of the production, examination and visual manifestation of data. The objective of this and forthcoming sessions is to enable informal dialogue on the challenges and opportunities of the creative investigation of data. 

The main mission of the Data Image Lab is to enrich the critical and conceptual understanding of data and society, facilitating interdisciplinary dialogue with a range of partners through the application of art and design inquiry methods. We exchange ideas on the growing everyday presence of data, considering both its rewards and its problematics.

The databites session will be on Teams. Please join us using the link here.