Bot Like Me symposium @ swissnex San Francisco, San Francisco [20 May]

Bot Like Me symposium

13:30 - 22:30

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swissnex San Francisco
Pier 17 Suite 800, San Francisco, California 94111
As more humans turn to apps and websites to find relationships, a growing non-human presence is rising to meet them. The «Bot Like Me» symposium explores the dangers, possibilities, and transformations emerging from this new frontier of human-chatbot relationships. Today, we have more smart machines around us, more bots than humans on the web, virtual assistants in our homes, bedrooms and pockets. The Bot Like Me symposium invites designers, artists, and writers to share perspectives on the growing intimacy and emotional relationships we have with algorithms, and the impact algorithms have on us. The evening includes access to the swissnex Gallery's «Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures, Lol» exhibition by !Mediengruppe Bitnik, dinner, and a special ECOcyborg DJperformance from Alex Murray-Leslie (Chicks on Speed).


1:30pm — doors open
2 — 6pm — talks and panels
6:30pm — dinner
8 — 9:30pm — performance: Alex Murray-Leslie (Chicks on Speed) ECOcyborg DJperformance
10pm — doors close


Alex Murray-Leslie (Chicks on Speed): ECOcyborg DJperformance

Alex Murray-Leslie mixes high and low, street and elite to create a trans-genre crossing, temporal drag, ecofeministic, cyborg pop dj performance. Alexandra Murray-Leslie is co-founder of the artband Chicks on Speed, researches and makes sounding foot-wearables. She is currently Artistic Director of Wearable Technology at Mobile World Congress. Alex has exhibited and performed internationally at cultural institutions and biennale’s such as MoMA, the Whitney Biennial, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia; ArtSpace Sydney, Australian Pavillion Vernissage; 56th Venice Biennale, Centre Pompidou, Paris & Turner Prize, Tate Modern, London and ZKM, Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe.


More speakers TBA. This is the second edition of the ‘Bot like Me Symposium’ in relationship with the !Mediengruppe Bitnik exhibition. The first took place at the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris in December 2016, and a third will be held in June at the EPFL ArtLab in Lausanne, Switzerland.

!Mediengruppe Bitnik

!Mediengruppe Bitnik live and work in Zurich/Berlin. They are contemporary artists working on, and with, the Internet. Their practice expands from the digital to physical spaces, often intentionally applying loss of control to challenge established structures and mechanisms. !Mediengruppe Bitnik’s works formulate fundamental questions concerning contemporary issues. In early 2013, !Mediengruppe Bitnik sent a parcel to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy. The parcel contained a camera which broadcast its journey through the postal system live on the internet. They describe “Delivery for Mr. Assange” as a “SYSTEM_TEST and a Live Mail Art Piece.” The group created a bot, called “Random Darknet Shopper,” which went on a three-month shopping spree in the Darknet, where it randomly bought Ecstasy and other illegal objects which were shipped directly to the gallery space. !Mediengruppe Bitnik are the artists Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo. Their accomplices are the London filmmaker and researcher Adnan Hadzi, and the reporter Daniel Ryser.

Annalee Newitz

Annalee Newitz is an author and journalist who broke the story in 2015 about bots in the Ashley Madison database. She is the Tech Culture Editor at Ars Technica, and the founding editor of io9. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of popular tech site Gizmodo. She’s the author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (Doubleday and Anchor), which was a finalist for the LA Times book prize. Her first science fiction novel, Autonomous, will be released from Tor in 2017. It is about robots. Learn more at

Christopher Noessel

Christopher Noessel will speak on the subject of «2,752 years of bots.» He is the Global Design Practice Manager with IBM, bringing IBM design to clients. He teaches, speaks about, and evangelizes design internationally. He investigates and speaks on topics ranging from interactive narrative to ethnographic user research, interaction design to generative randomness, and designing for the future. He is co-author of Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction (Rosenfeld Media, 2012), co-author of About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, 4th Edition (Wiley, 2015), keeper of the blog, and author of Designing Agentive Technology: AI That Works for People (Rosenfeld Media, 2017) He is currently contemplating books about meaning machines and interfaces that improve their users.

Jacqueline Feldman

Jacqueline Feldman is a Brooklyn-based writer and designer of bot personalities. She has contributed to publications such as The Atlantic, Guernica, The New Inquiry, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The White Review, and Real Life. Her AI design work has been featured in the Guardian, Brooklyn, Refinery29, and in a video profile at Engadget. As a 2012-2013 Fulbright Fellow to France in Journalism, she reported about squatter communities; she has also worked as a translator of fiction and screen and stage plays from French and taught at Panthéon-Assas University.

Joël Vacheron

Joël Vacheron writes about visual culture and the impact of technology on our ways of seeing. He is currently senior lecturer and researcher in visual communication at the University of Art and Design in Lausanne (ECAL) and freelance on diverse editorial projects. He recently recently published with Nicolas Nova “DADABOT: An Introduction to Machinic Creolization,” a book about the role of software and bots in cultural production, and the hybridization of cultural forms (music, visual arts, literature) produced by digital technologies. It deals with Twitter bots, generative music, software-based literature, and «all those weird art/design experiments» with digital hybridization and mash-ups.

Luc Meier

Luc Meier is a former Associate Director of swissnex San Francisco, Luc was instrumental in setting up the organization’s art-technology interface program with partners such as the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia and a broad range of U.S partners. Luc is currently the Head of Content and curator in chief for the ArtLab Initiative at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). EPFL ArtLab is a programmatic initiative aiming to position the school’s research-education-tech transfer pipeline in the cultural domain through public programs combining art, science and technology. Centered around the recently opened ArtLab building designed by Kengo Kuma, the programs aim to provide a laboratory for the development of museographic technologies and to act as a platform for debate on contemporary relationships of technology and culture.


The swissnex Gallery's exhibition Desperate times call for desperate measures, lol by !Mediengruppe Bitnik personifies gigabytes of chatbot script data from the hack of adult website Ashley Madison. The hack of the dating website revealed that virtually no human women were present, and that 75,000 female chatbots were created to fuel the illusion of casual sex opportunities to millions of high paying men subscribers. The artists rebuilt 51 San Francisco fembots for the swissnex gallery to explore these human-bot relationships. Does it matter that users are chatting with bots and not humans? Why? How did the system work? How was trust built into it? Were these relationships ‘fake’ or ‘real’?
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