Paolo Cirio

Honorary Mention

This artwork documented over twenty-thousand patents of socially manipulative information technology. In Sociality, Cirio collected and rated Internet inventions submitted to the U.S. patent office. Subsequently, he invited the public to share, flag, and ban the technologies designed to monitor and manipulate social behaviors. The patent images and data were obtained by Cirio through hacking the Google Patents search engine. Then he rated the patents and created thousands of compositions with images of flowcharts and titles of inventions, which were published on the project’s website, The visual compositions on the website were printed in form of posters and a coloring book for informing on devices that enable discrimination, polarization, addiction, deception, and surveillance.
The concept of turning patents into vehicles for regulation aims to exploit intellectual property law as a tool for democratic oversight. This work integrates both the dystopia surrounding technology and the utopia of its participatory governance with flowcharts of patents taking the form of documentary and protest art. With this problematizing piece, Cirio exposed evidence of social manipulation and questioned the ethical, legal, and economic structures of such technological apparatuses. In the exhibition, the public confronts large-scale compositions with hundreds of images of flowcharts that abstractly invoke the complexity and magnitude of such uncanny plans to program people.



Foto: Paolo Cirio

Paolo Cirio (IT) has exhibited in museums and art institutions worldwide. He shows his research and intervention-based works through prints, installations, videos, and public art. Paolo Cirio works with legal, economic, and cultural systems of the information society. He investigates social fields impacted by the Internet, such as privacy, democracy, finance, and intellectual property. He shows his research and intervention-based works through artifacts, photos, installations, videos, and public art. Cirio’s art considers how society is affected by the control over information. It embodies the contradictions, ethics, conflicts, and potentials inherent to the social complexity of information society through a critical and proactive approach. Paolo Cirio examines the ethics and aesthetics of working with online piracy, data breach, identity theft, privacy, fake news, algorithms, and hacking.

Jury Statement

Paolo Cirio offers a strong artistic provocation that serves as an urgent call for action to challenge tech monopolies and regain democratic accountability over algorithms. With Sociality, he inquires how new internet technologies impact our human psyche and behavior. By coding a scraper to download large volumes of patent data from Google, he depicts the new reality of surveillance capitalism. The 20,000 social media and Big Tech patents featured in Sociality deal with technologies firmly entrenched in the cultural zeitgeist.

This is a powerful artistic manifesto for a more ethical use of technology that subverts intellectual property laws in the interest of the collective intelligence of people that in the first place created the knowledge and data continuously harnessed and extracted in social media platforms. It provides a trajectory for a digital future where it is possible to regulate technology and put it at the service of society. It suggests that we embrace a third way between Big Tech surveillance capitalism and Big State centralized control: a people-first digital future based on democratic control and collective accountability that can be championed by Europe.

View full Jury Statement here.