Digital Labor

Burak Arikan


Burak Arikan is an Istanbul and New York based artist working with complex networks. He takes the obvious social, economical, and political issues as input and runs through abstract machinery, which generates network maps and algorithmic interfaces, results in performances, and procreates predictions to render inherent power relationships visible and discussable. Arıkan’s software, prints, installations, and performances have been featured in numerous institutions internationally; most recent appearances include: 31st Sao Paulo Biennial (2014), 13th Istanbul Biennial (2013), Home Works 6, Beirut (2013), 11th Sharjah Biennial (2013), 7th Berlin Biennale (2012), Nam June Paik Award Exhibition, Kunstmuseum Bochum (2012), Truth is Concrete, Graz (2012). Arikan is the founder of Graph Commons collaborative “network mapping” platform.

Graph Commons
Today, we are all accustomed to the idea of network effects. By experience, we do have the sense that it is networks where power resides and circulates. Yet, we end up failing as active agents, who, hands on, have the means of criticizing complex networks.That is not due to our incapability of comprehending the network effects, but due to two basic reasons.

First, existing tools for network mapping and network analysis are specifically designed for engineers, scientists, and business and government experts. These actors analyze, understand and manage complexity, and reproduce the panopticon as a general phenomena. The rest of us, often as the subjects of the analysis, are not able to access and use such expert tools, although we are all inundated with influx of information.

Second, there is the myth that common people have no access to data. Yet we are the data for government and companies, which continuously surveill our activities. It would be wrong to assume that personal track of data would have a minor effect. Hence, the social media platforms have proven that the value of connected data comes directly from the social labor that produces and reproduces the relationships generating proprietary network maps called social graph, taste graph, interest graph and what not. However, no portion of the graph is available for us to collectively own or move to other places.

Collective mapping of relationships and interconnecting our partial data would indeed render complex structures visible and discussible. In fact, rather than being merely the subject material of network maps, we have the capacity to become a producer, an author of one. Collective data mapping, furthermore induce collective production of the idea of commons through collective ownership of the compiled data and generated maps. Emerging from this position, Graph Commons, a collective ‘network mapping’ tool, provides a platform to map the relationships embedded in institutions of power and issues that impact us and our communities.

This talk will be in a lecture format where the ideas above will be discussed and the Graph Commons platform will be presented along with the new version that includes collective data ownership and user labor mechanisms built in.