Thumb Prints, Evidence, and Interaction

As a privacy researcher I spend a lot of time discussing what “privacy” is; how do we define it, protect it, differentiate it from anonymity, and negotiate the “right” to privacy with other rights. Often these discussions depend on the type of information that can be discovered about an individual, and how difficult it is to discover this information.

As an artist I am interested in creating symbols; images and objects that communicate (usually) intuitive thoughts in a nonverbal way. Sometimes these creations include materials that have been left behind; wood, stone, or steel that has outlasted its original purpose that I use for a different purpose, hopefully entertaining, engaging, or uplifting an audience. Repurposing existing materials to create new forms of art is a long running artistic tradition; artists including Joseph Beuys, Chris Burden, Robert Rauschenberg, and Louise Nevelson have all used repurposed materials in their work in different ways. More recently, Heather Dewey-Hagborg collects DNA samples from discarded coffee cups and other detritus and uses those DNA samples to digitally print portraits of the person who so carelessly left behind their DNA.

With this tradition of repurposing, privacy, and “evidence” in mind I noticed the smudge marks on our family Ipad and thought these marks represent a trail of interaction between a human and a computing device, allowing us to infer some form of activity, and potentially distilling this interaction and some of the social and political meaning behind it into a “beautiful” image.  These images are a snapshot in time, a record of human gesture without self-consciousness; like a  Jackson Pollock drip painting without the artistic intention. Some of these images are included below.