© Nicolas Gourault
It all started with a curious coincidence. In 2018, German car manufacturers, taken aback by the advents of Google and Tesla on autonomous vehicles, invested a lot of money in research. They gathered an immense amount of data from their cars sensors that they then had to process. The same year, Venezuela was hit by a terrible economic crisis which threw thousands of workers in unemployment and poverty. A lot of them turned to online micro-working platforms and ended up annotating images that were coming by the thousand from Germany.
Unknown Label is a multi-channel video installation exploring the daily experience of online micro-workers from the Global South who annotate images for self-driving cars. It will investigate the power asymmetries and neocolonialist exploitation involved in the manual labor necessary to train AI systems. Unknown Label reveals the hidden crowd that works with these operational images and help shape how machines see the world. A digital collage, layering together fragments of annotated images and a virtual map of the world as seen by self-driving cars, creates a space where the viewers can share the vision of otherwise invisible data workers. The video installation thus raises the question of how to reappropriate these operational images which depict and categorize the world we live in without our prior knowledge or agreement.