06 Sputniko! Joins to MIT Media Lab and then Makes a Visit to London (Part 2)


Hi again from Sputniko!
This issue brings you Part Two of the story about my visit to the Royal College of Art (RCA). Last time, I introduced Benedikt Groß's graduate exhibition work. If you are saying to yourself, "Hey, it's been a month since then! I don't remember what it was about!" please give the article another read!

In order to count all the pools in Los Angeles, Benedikt asked an Indian IT company to analyze aerial photos of LA and clip the images of pools that showed up. This job was done for an astonishingly low price.
For the next step, he decided to use a crowd source service called Amazon Mechanical Turk. This is a work-sharing system under which workers around the world carry out simple tasks that would be difficult to do with an automated program. The clients pay the workers according to the results they produce. Benedikt used this service to check if the data from the Indian venture company was accurate, and also had a list made that consisted of detailed information such as the shapes and sizes of the pools.
Benedikt instantly became the world's foremost expert on LA pools (!). He next compiled the area-based information into actual books. With that, regional gaps and economic disparities became apparent through the pools: the exclusive neighborhood of Beverly Hills is full of pools, so that book grew thick, whereas poorer areas with hardly any pools had paper-thin books.

It's not just the disparities within LA that are indicated here. The low wages of the Indian IT company, actual working conditions in the Internet society (Amazon Mechanical Turk is often criticized as a virtual sweatshop), and issues of loose security that make it easy to acquire private information through crowd services--the list goes on.

Anyhow, Benedikt's project was definitely one of my favorite projects I saw at the Royal College of Art graduate show. I'll soon be leaving for MIT in Boston, but I'm sure my stay in London gave me some new perspectives.

* Original text in Japanese, translated to English by the Japan Foundation

With my old buddies in London!

Me, at work

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