Manic Bot

Jenna deBoisblanc
October 2020
Custom software (Processing)
Dimensions variable

Manic Bot is an interactive Processing program that attempts to blur the lines between human and machine by merging the content that I created during my psychotic break (which includes geolocations, social media posts, emails, and texts) with equally bizarre, frequently-nonsensical text and imagery generated by artificial intelligence algorithms.

Fundamentally, this work seeks to challenge our access to reality. By combining my own blabber with the algorithmic equivalent into this smartphone performance, I hope to ask: when did I lose Jenna and become a sputtering, psychotic bot? And equivalently, when will machines, with all their human-induced neuroses, become conscious?

Amalia Ulman’s work, Ethira, ultimately played a role in the ways I started thinking about the intersection of technology, mental health, movement, and surveillance. Ethira was an iphone app that allowed users to post anonymous, geo-tagged messages that would delete soon after posting. by refusing to record any data about users, Ethira attempted to subvert surveillance capitalism, by which I mean the increasingly dominant economic system where tech companies commodify personal data.

The objective, in Ulman’s words, was to create an app where users could “shout into the void”. She writes: “Twitter seemed the go-to app for those with mental health issues… as a form of release. The problem with that though, is that …your problems become inseparable from your handle” link.

Ulman’s critical consideration of social media (in this case, in service of mental health) ultimately served as a bridge from Manic Bot to my critical examinations of surveillance.