Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico
Through special custom software we collected data from more than 1,000,000 Facebook users. What we collected is their ›public data‹ - some of their personal data (name, country, Facebook groups they subscribe to) plus their main profile picture and a few friend relationships. We built a database with all this data, then began to analyze the pictures that showed smiling faces.
The vast majority of pictures were both amateurish and somehow almost involuntarily or unconsciously alluring. And they are almost always ›smiling‹. It's also evident that the majority of users want to appear in the best shape and look. They are acting on Facebook's mandatory mechanism: establish new relationships. Facebook is based on the voluntary uploading of personal data and sharing it with friends. The more friends the better. Being personal and popular a Facebook user is exposing him/herself to many others, continuing to establish new relationships.
Once the database was ready, we studied and customized a face recognition algorithm. The algorithm used self learning neural networks and was programmed to ›group‹ the huge amount of faces we collected (and their attached data) in a few simple categories. The categories are among the most popular that we usually use to define a person at a distance, without know- ing him/her, or judging based only on a few behaviors. We picked six categories (›climber‹, ›easy going‹, ›funny‹, ›mild‹, ›sly‹ and ›smug‹ - working definitions), with some intuitive differences, for both male and female sub- jects. The software effectively extracted 250,000 faces that were connected to the relevant public data in our database. So by combining all this information we wanted to make this further step easier for everybody.
We established a dating website [www.Lovely-Faces.com], importing all the 250,000 profiles. This step builds the virtual land that Facebook is always close to but never explicitly steps in, being just an enormous background to the active process of searching for potential sexual relationships. The profiles will be definitively ›sin- gle‹ and available, in a fairly competitive environment, with real data and real faces that users have personally posted.
Their smiles will finally reach what they unconsciously really want: more relationships with unknown people, attracted by their virtual presence. The price users pay is being categorized as what they really are, or better, how they choose to be represented in the most famous and crowded online environment. The project starts to dismantle the trust that 500 million people have put in Facebook.
Alessandro Ludovico is a media critic and editor in chief of Neural magazine since 1993 and was awarded with a ›Honorary Mention‹ for Net.Vision at Prix Ars Electronica 2004. He's one of the founders of the 'Mag.Net (Elec- tronic Cultural Publishers organization). He also served as an advisor for the Documenta 12's Magazine Project. He has been guest researcher at the Willem De Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. He teaches at the Academy of Art in Carrara.. www.neural.it
Paolo Cirio, 1979, works as a media artist in various fields: netart, public-art, video-art, software-art and experimental storytelling. He has won prestigious media art awards and his works have been sustained by research grants, collaborations and residencies. He has exhibited in international museums and institutions worldwide His radical and controversial art works depict the predisposition of corporate and governmental organizations to manipulate reality through using information's power. www.paolocirio.net .