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Prix 1987 - 2007

Ars Electronica Linz & ORF Oberösterreich

Ryota Kimura

Computerized surveillance is inextricably linked with services or convenience in contemporary society, irrespective of the political system or corporation involved. We have grown accustomed to the idea and have begun to see surveillance as an aid to our comfort.

S.U.I. is a caricature of the situation in the very near future. With a mixture of reality and fiction, it indicates a situation in a somewhat exaggerated manner, a situation which is now occurring and could possibly occur in the future. It connects with surveillance that explicitly or implicitly exists in our computerized consumer society. It is a “fictive service in the very near future.” It displays history in a card, the SUICA—Super Urban Intelligent Card, in the form of a motion video and of a visualized route map in real time. This real smart card is available commercially and is used very broadly in the Tokyo area in Japan for railway tickets. As well as being a motion video, the bot as “the agent of the service”, automatically analyzes the history in the card and communicates the result to the user in a spoken voice.

Basically the bot speaks about the following things.

- The card owner's living place.
- The card owner's most favorite place to visit, and the related intrusive recommendation.
- The card owner's records of returning home, of staying overnight etc.
- The card owner's very superficial personal pro file, which is derived from the above and the other factors.
- Something not worth bothering about from each station.
- “General information” about the card.

For the bot, the data is the only real thing, and he analyzes, interprets and evaluates it with his arbitrary and biased view. As the simple “mock AI,” the bot speaks about the actual data in the card, announces extremely shortsighted presumptions, speaks about fictive things, the real facts related to the card, and so on. The real things and the fictive things are mixed. (These fictive suggestions, however, include real possibilities should things go badly in the near future.) This also explains the title of the work: S.U.I., “Smart Urban Intelligence”—the name of the service that the bot continually mentions; in the same time it is also the actual abbreviation used for the underground train card.

Currently the basically half-anonymous data in this card is aimed increasingly at being linked to personal information such as e-mail addresses for the purpose of marketing and so on, not infrequently without careful privacy policy. Under such circumstance what is the meaning of the word “Super Urban Intelligent”? How empty this phrase is! I hope that, through this work, people will become more aware of the growing situation and of some of the problems it potentially contains—that is the organization of individuals through RFID technology.