Preserved Memories

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Brave New World!

Preserving a digital family for the future

An audience of 600 people attended the launch of an extensive Aldous Huxley inspired exhibition “Brave New World: A dismal future that has already arrived”  at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague, Czech Republic.

The works of over twenty artists from around the world who deal with topics such as surveillance, consumerism, and the world of the media bear the same warning message. Alas, they refer to a ‘dismal’ future that has already arrived.

The authors of Brave New World (1932), 1984 (1949), and Fahrenheit 451 (1953) wanted above all to galvanize readers and point out possible future threats. In his warning against the control of individuals based on psychological manipulation, fear, and a total absence of privacy, George Orwell presciently predicted the perfection of today’s surveillance systems. In the 1930s, Aldous Huxley saw a fundamental threat in technological intervention leading to the implementation of a social caste system, and in the 1950s, Ray Bradbury predicted the victory of a superficial mass media culture over a society that recognizes the value of books.

British artist Simon Mckeown’s conceptual work visualises how in the future Big Data streams can be (mis)used to create synthetic digital life. As a forward thinking artist he is looking to the future and creating opportunities to bring deceased family members back to ‘virtual’ life through digital technology and social media activity.

Have you ever wanted to chat with your great grandmother or ask her life advice?

McKeown’s ‘Preserved Memories’ proposes that in the future you will be reconstitute your reality so that you never have to permanently say goodbye to a loved one again.

‘Preserved Memories’ suggests that by combining state-of-the-art gaming technology, voice synthesis and Big Data streams – such as social media, government databases and health records – we will be able create a synthetic digital life which you will recognise and which will recognise you.

In 50 years’ time this system will be seen as similar to an Xbox or Playstation and is the brainchild of Simon, a Reader in Animation and Post Production at Teesside University.

‘Preserved Memories’ uses a process called ‘photogrammetry’ where you can accurately reconstruct a virtual 3D shape of a human being from existing photographs and video. In addition, the advancement in computer voice synthesis, will also take into account local and regional accents and deliver a more personalised, human experience. When you link these virtual humans to Big Data streams the system will create a digital lifeform which is up to date and informed about your activities. You’ve been shopping or to the doctors! The virtual character will already know.

Simon said: “In the future with “Preserved Memories”, you will never have to experience the loss of a loved one. You will be able to add to your family tree and select new family members, including famous faces and legends, all of whom will already know about you.

Using emotion-sensitive human-computer interaction artificially intelligent participants continue to acquire ongoing knowledge long after their death - they evolve digitally and do not die.”

“This life form will be up to date and informed of your daily activities through GPS, Wifi, health and fitness tracking, consumer records and much more. They will know if you have passed your exam, driving test, flown on holiday, bought new shoes, ditched your boyfriend. They will know what you tell it on social media and also by the constant tracking that occurs every day.

Locations will recreated, using technology from game engines, mapped against GPS and other historic data such as the weather. For instance it snowed in Rome on the 23rd of August 2020 and your deceased uncle was nearby. His historic social media stream tells us that he was on holiday and he was celebrating a wedding anniversary. We know the location from extra data stored inside photographs and from a myriad of other sources.

The question is …Would you like to talk to him?

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Preserved Memories is a project created for DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague, The work suggests that in the future we will live on after our death via our digital profiles which will contemporaneous and in 3D. The work was shown as part of the 'Brave New World' exhibition at DOX which looked at the way technology has come to dominate our futures. Taking the form of a 4x3 M Computer Game Console advert, Mckeown's work caused an international reaction and featured in many newspapers and radio shows, including the Telegraph and Mail in the UK as well BBC radio.

Preserving a digital family for the future

A forward thinking artist is looking to the future and creating opportunities to bring deceased family members back to ‘virtual’ life through digital technology and social media activity.

Have you ever wanted to chat again with your grandmother or ask her life advice?

With Simon McKeown’s ‘Preserved Memories’ he proposes that in the future you will be able to reconstitute your reality so that you never have to permanently say goodbye to a loved one again.

Preserved Memories suggests that by combining state-of-the-art gaming technology, voice synthesis and Big Data streams – such as social media, government databases and health records – we will be able to create a synthetic digital life which you recognise and which will recognise you.

It is the brainchild of Simon McKeown, a Reader in Animation and Post Production at Teesside University, who says that in 50 years’ time, this kind of technology will be seen in a similar way to how the Xbox or Playstation is seen today.

Simon is currently displaying Preserved Memories at the Dox Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague as part of the Brave New World Exhibition, which runs until 25 January next year. It features the work of over 20 artists from around the world who use topics such as surveillance, consumerism and the media to display a ‘dismal future that has already arrived’.

Preserved Memories uses a process called ‘photogrammetry’ where you can accurately reconstruct a virtual 3D shape of a human being from existing photographs and video. In addition, the advancement in computer voice synthesis, will also take into account local and regional accents and deliver a more personalised, human experience. When you link these virtual humans to Big Data streams the system will create a digital lifeform which is up to date and informed about your activities. If you have been shopping or to the doctors, the virtual character will already know.

Simon said: “In the future with Preserved Memories, you will never have to experience the loss of a loved one. You will be able to add to your family tree and select new family members, including famous faces and legends, all of whom will already know about you.

“Using emotion-sensitive human-computer interaction our artificially intelligent participants continue to acquire ongoing knowledge long after their death - they evolve digitally and do not die.

“This life form will be up to date and informed of your daily activities through GPS, Wifi, health and fitness tracking, consumer records and much more. They will know if you have passed your exam, driving test, flown on holiday, bought new shoes, ditched your boyfriend. They will know what you tell it on social media and also by the constant tracking that occurs every day.

“Our prime data feeds mean digital participants instantly know what you have done and can sense your physical mood and excitement.”

Simon has over 25 years of professional creative experience. His Motion Disabled Unlimited project - a stunning digital installation which used animation to show how disabled athletes move - was shown all over the world and was an integral part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

He recently showed Cork Ignite to a one off audience of over 10,000 people who saw a riverside building brought to life with a stunning digital projection.

 

Notes to editors:

  • The DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design is now in its seventh year and has presented more than a hundred and twenty exhibition projects, over five hundred accompanying programmes and more than six hundred educational and family programmes. Today it ranks amongst the most progressive artistic institutions in the Czech Republic, and enjoys wide popularity amongst the public - http://www.dox.cz/en/
  • The Brave New World exhibition project is based on a comparison of social models as described by Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury in their famous dystopic visions of the future, with the current social situation, especially the area of social control, consumerism, and the media.
  • The preparation and realisation of the exhibition, including its attendant and educational programme for primary and high schools, is supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

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