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We can’t live without them, but how much should we trust our smartphones? If you really want the answer to that question, a new art exhibit reveal the answer.
Appropriately named The Glass Room, the NoLiTa pop-up gallery gleams just like an Apple store that sprang up on Mulberry Street, shiny-white and full of iPads and other devices on pedestals. Instead of the latest gadget though, each piece is an artwork meant to confront visitors with just how little they know about how the internet works, government surveillance, fake news and that little device in all our pockets that probably knows us better than our best friends.
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“We want to engage people in thinking about those topics, the health of the internet and how to take control of their online lives,” says Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, which is presenting the exhibit.
Like the gadgets on sale at any gleaming modern technology store, each piece is meant to draw visitors in. “They’re pieces that very often start with a fun thing or provocation, but they all confront these issues on a deeper level,” explains Stephanie Hankey, executive director of Tactical Technology Collective, which curated the show.
Gadgets include the speculative, like an ordinary-looking wall plug that’s in fact hijacked the Glass Room’s wi-fi, allowing users to change headlines on pages that look like they belong to major news organizations. There’s a point here about the rise of fake news sites, of course, but also a broader question of how much should we trust public wi-fi networks.
There are also very real devices in use today. Think no one will notice if you skipped church services this week? Churchix software uses face recognition to take attendance, so even if the big man upstairs isn’t keeping score, someone else is.
If all this is making you anxious, there’s a better solution than going off the grid. At the back of the gallery is a Data Detox Bar, where inGenious technicians will dispense advice on how to take control of your privacy by better understanding how your phone works and the things you do every day online.
Though it has similarities with the Netflix show “Black Mirror,” which speculates on the consequences of technological innovation, The Glass Room is actually about developing a healthier relationship with your devices and preventing a future where technology controls us.
“[The exhibits] are not saying technology is bad or good,” says Hankey, “more like the middle ground in between that we should explore, and the points of curiosity we should have.”
The Glass Room
Through Dec. 14, noon-8 p.m.
201 Mulberry St.