Synthetic Messenger by Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne

at TAxT, Taoyuan Art x Technology Festival in Taoyuan City, Taiwan

Ars Electronica Exhibition Participation

Opening: September 22, 2023
Duration: September 23 – October 29, 2023
Place: Taoyuan City, Taiwan

In 2023, TAxT, the Taoyuan Art x Technology Festival, and Ars Electronica collaborate for the very first time and we are excited that the partnership led to an extended interactive version of Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne’s artwork Synthetic Messenger. Synthetic Messenger is a botnet that attempts to artificially inflate the value of climate change news and reporting by clicking on ads. At TAxT visitors interact with the bot through supporting it clicking on adds.

Every day Synthetic Messenger searches the internet for news articles covering climate change, then 100 bots visit each article and click on every ad they can find. In an algorithmic media landscape, the value of news is determined by engagement statistics. Media outlets rely on advertising revenue earned through page visits and ad clicks, and these engagement signals produce patterns of value that influence what stories and topics get future coverage. Public narratives about climate change are shaped by these interwoven algorithmic and economic logics, logics that are presently leveraged by the fossil fuel industry. Synthetic Messenger is a climate engineering scheme to manipulate the algorithmic systems that shape these narratives. What if media itself were seen as a form of climate engineering, a space where narrative becomes ecology?

Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne’s work examines the shifts in behaviors, desires, language and economics catalyzed by computational systems and the internet. In their collaborations they have simulated international organizations, run a real dating service in NYC, and shared the entire Enron email archive with online audiences. They live and work in Brooklyn, New York.

Artwork Credits

Synthetic Messenger is by Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne.
This project has been supported by the Goethe-Institut’s New Nature Program (2020) and by the 2021 STRP Festival.
With thanks to Dr. Simon David Hirsbrunner for collaborating on the background research, and everyone who contributed their hands: Dominique McBride, Corin Faife, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Daniel Shiffman, Jackie Hasa, Martin Walsh, Djoeke Schoots, Andrei Stoica, Cubiton, Elizabeth Henaff, Andrew Lau, Regine Gilbert, Royce Brain, Loretta Moy, Yeseul Song, Brian Clifton, Orion Kellogg, Masha Kouznetsova, Zlatica Hasa.

About TAxT

Taoyuan Art x Technology Festival is an annual festival held in Tauyan City, Taiwan, hosted by Arts facilities Manage Center of Taoyuan city government. The festival aims to connect arts and technology, and invites innovative artists, scientists, and researchers from around the world to present their latest projects at the event.

About Festival Theme

“Begin AI Conduction from the Heart” is the theme of TAxT Festival in 2023.

The romanization of Mandarin word referring to “Love” is “AI”. Therefore “Begin AI Conduction from the Heart” in a way can be translated as “Begin to Love from the Heart.” Love is a kind of emotional and mental state from the heart. When you start transforming AI into a presentation and expression of love and art from the heart, AI will be no longer just cold data, but a technology that connects art; connect you and me emotionally.

For the exhibition content, through flow theory and digital game theory, six theme areas of flow immersion has been developed, including body immersion, fun immersion, space immersion, consciousness immersion, emotional immersion, and shared immersion. In each theme, human’s love and pursuit of life are expressed through technological means. These six themes are not isolated, but interrelated and interdependent. Together, they build a holistic world, a world full of technology, art and love.