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    Posted: 22 August 2019

    An evening program consisting of a lecture, two workshops and a drawing session, related to the work of Paolo Cirio

    On July 19th, parallel to the exhibition Sociality by Paolo Cirio, we deconstructed the secret workings enabling social manipulation behind our everyday technology with a lecture by D’vorah Greaser (US) from KISSPatent, workshops by Object Oriented Subject (Lucia Dossin & Lídia Pereira), Cécile Espinasse & Clara Montrieul plus a ‘drawn-to’ session led by De Zine (Sunjoo Lee & Leif Czakai).

    Sociality, the exhibition by Paolo Cirio is part of one of Baltan's three main topics; Homo Socialis. This topic investigates the tension between the individual and the collective. Within this topic, the paradox of individualism is explored and counterbalanced with our deepest human desire to be part of a larger whole, such as a community.

    Cirio’s work engages with the legal, economic, and cultural systems of the information society. His works investigate social fields impacted by the Internet, such as privacy, democracy, intellectual property, and finance. With Sociality, Cirio reveals technology enabling social manipulation and created thousands of compositions with images of flowcharts and titles of 20.000 patented inventions published on

    The visual compositions on the website are printed in form of flyers and a coloring book, containing technologies that enable discrimination, polarization, addiction, deception, and surveillance. These flyers refer to the website where everyone is able to browse, search, submit, and rate patents by their titles and images of flowcharts. This way, visitors perform oversight of invasive inventions designed to target demographics, push content, coerce interactions, and monitor citizens.

    Human Sociality (is being engineered and patented)
    After Baltan’s exhibition space being fully covered with print-outs, Cirio’s work comes across as an activist act revealing just how invasive our digital devices have become. Cirio aggregated and sorted more than 20.000 of these somewhat terrifying patents into an artistic, searchable database. On the contrary, the context of an exhibition space embedded in a cultural institution can be rather counterproductive for it to be activist. If not online, it would naturally have more effect and be more visible in public space.

    However, Cirio’s selected content might be too complex and bound to specific knowledge for it to work in a public context. Therefore, Baltan decided to use the exhibition space and bring the content of Cirio’s work to life in another way; an evening program consisting of a lecture, two workshops and a drawing session, all related Cirio’s work. As a lab for experimentation and interaction between different creative disciplines, Baltan finds it important to have open, ongoing discussions like this about pressing topics and raise awareness within the creative community.

    Who Owns Your Ideas?
    D’vorah Graeser (US) is the founder of KISSPatent, a legal startup that focuses on protecting disruptive ideas and supports innovation and change within businesses. KISSPatent’s goal is to make the patent process transparent, straightforward and easy. Graeser is a US Patent Agent with over 20 years of experience. She believes that innovation protection should be affordable and available to everyone. KISSPatent is a global company, with a fully remote team of patent attorneys and innovation experts who operate across three continents.

    Graeser’s lecture, “Who Owns Your Ideas?”, focused on three main topics: patents, trademarks and copyright. Each section was followed by a gallery walk to illustrate the points with individual patents by Paolo Cirio. The lecture offered valuable insights in Graeser’s field of expertise, and really engaged the participants while addressing a great variety of very compelling and controversial topics like: Should these patents be owned and traded by private companies without public scrutiny? Do we want to accept all categories of inventions? Does it matter what the effect on society is?

    Graeser took the challenge to browse through the huge body of patents and collected additional information on a smaller selection, while raising questions like: Who is the inventor of the invention? Who is the owner of the invention? When was the patent filed and when will it expire? In the exhibition most patents were owned by large companies and all of them (if sufficiently innovative) got granted a 20 year-long monopoly. Graeser mentioned that the participants were surrounded by patents. Not only because the exhibition space was covered with print-outs of patents, but mostly because the chemicals in the paper or the ink used for printing might be patented too. Not to mention all the (smart) phones people have on them, which includes thousands of patents. A patent must not only be applied to technology (software/hardware) but can also be applied to chemistry (e.g. medicine).

    Historic context
    Patents are made for us to operate life in a technical society. They are intended to keep owners of inventions from getting into huge fights, which still happens, nevertheless. Patents are a 20 year-long contract between the people, the society in the context of a country, and an inventor. Each government has an office to examine if an idea is worthy a patent, with engineers trained in law who are there to decide whether the wow-factor of an invention is sufficient. The wow-factor is determined by law and often by court in a very subjective way. The decisions that are made often seem very questionable if we consider a patent being a contract with society and the inventor for having a monopoly in it.

    This is because the patent process is still stuck in the 18th century at the rise of the nation state. This is more or less the current situation all decisions for patent granting can be based on. But the original reason for having patents dates back to the 16th century to the time of the black death. 50 or 60 percent of society in Europe perished due to the plague, and with them their knowledge. Back then the way to keep an invention or a skill to yourself was to keep it secret. For this the people formed trait guilds, basically the start-ups of that time, who would train people their secret technologies (e.g. about dies or silk making processes). If one wanted to learn a secret skill this person had to join the guild. Needless to say, a lot of secrets died, hidden in the minds of their inventors whom perished.

    For this, Queen Elisabeth decided to go for sharing ideas instead of keeping them secret and she did so by granting the inventor and or owner the monopoly right of the invention. Since then inventors can sue copycats and go to court. This way, even the little guy can make money as it happens that big companies infringe patent rights. And the inventor himself can decide what has to be paid or which requirements have to be fulfilled in the case of infringement or request of usage. For example, RIM/BlackBerry Limited, who had to pay a billion dollars after not taking the offer to buy the rights for 40 million dollars from an individual inventor.

    Status quo
    Nowadays, as possibilities in technology and science have moved further than we can imagine, are all innovations equal in the eyes of the patent law? For example: Can a medical invention be just treated as add-tech is? There are only two official exceptions in the law: military security or defence related innovations (e.g. nuclear bombs) have the right to prevent their info from being published.
    The other one is less strict as it only applies in extreme cases when it comes to modified animals.

    Another aspect that shows how outdated patent law is, is that patents are granted per country, and there is no acknowledgement of how they might be used or benefit us globally. Nowadays things are being consumed over the internet and boarders are fluent. Things have become multifaceted and we probably end up supporting a negative thing we don’t want or blocking a positive thing that we want. A patent may include definitions of normal or abnormal behavior, but it is an outdated system, that is supposed to speak for society, deciding on it and fixating those decisions for 20 years within an unstable commercial system.

    Baltan and KISSPatent will continue an open conversation about future opportunities and explore possibilities, as we both think there may be more interesting things our organizations can do together.

    After a break the evening continued. Participants were asked to divide over two workshops happening parallel to each other and one drawing session by De Zine. De Zine is a collective that since 2018 revives zine culture in Eindhoven by making micro-publications, organizing workshops, and doing collective collage sessions. By choosing analogue publication methods, De Zine explores the possibilities of copy-and-paste culture and create a social platform in which new ways of creating and publishing can be explored during fun and accessible events. For this occasion, Sunjoo Lee (KR) and Leif Czakai (DE) used Cirio’s patents as a starting point

    The same topic found another output during the workshop by Cécile Espinasse (FR) and Clara Montrieul (FR): Potential Interpretation or Plausible Sing-Along. Targeting control over data exploitation in social media, in a Dadaist attempt at making sense of the opaque jargon at use in the technological patenting industry. Deconstructing formulas word by word, participants came up with synonyms and bring catch-all terms into a familiar context, thus demystifying them. The result was a publication gathering patents accompanied by their potential interpretations, plausible-sing alongs and other dormant readings.

    The overall goal of the workshop was rather to move to an alternative sense (or even nonsense) of the initial meaning of the patents. The workshop, which triggered a lot of laughter, used printing, photographing, drawing, writing and taping. Participants did not only work on paper but also on the print outs directly that were taped to the walls. Both workshops contributed to the after-live of the event with physical input that would remain both on the walls and on the tables of the exhibition space.

    In the Baltan lab, Object Oriented Subject (Lucia Dossin (BR/NL) and Lídia Pereira (PT)) hosted the workshop “Beerpong or Voltaire?” This workshop builded around technology that is fed with Facebook content which can potentially indicate, with high accuracy, whether a user is likely to be an extrovert or an introvert. This prediction is based on the trivial act of liking content on Facebook. In the context of this workshop participants used a fictional dataset composed of User Likes and psychological data which is traditionally obtained from extensive questionnaires. This fictional dataset allowed participants to infer their personality traits based on their entertainment preferences. Rather than building trustworthy psychological profiles, it was the aim to illustrate one of the methods deployed to infer user characteristics from available user data, by Facebook as well by many others, thus starting a discussion around the possible consequences the employment of this method might have for our daily lives, economically, politically and socially.

    Like the other workshops, participants could execute it entirely on analogue and physical material which continued the haptic approach to a rather intangible topic. Every participant received a booklet with stickers and transparent filter sheets that would guide through the technology that deals with the liked input.


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