About The Circle
The Circle is a multi-platform initiative denouncing the biased algorithms used on popular teleconferencing platforms, with a focus on Zoom.
The shape of the circle, recurring visual throughout our projects, represents the wholeness of an individual as they interact on the platform. Throughout our projects, it can be noticed that there is a lack of circles or a distortion of circles; that deliberately represents the difficulty for participants to feel 'complete' as they are interacting on the platform. We argue that the algorithms used are mostly accountable for that.
Whether it is an awkward speaker detection algorithm or a racial biased virtual background algorithm, individuals struggle to see their real self reflected onto the platform and lose a part of their identity as they see their ability to express themselves weakened.
How it started
The Circle originates from the MA in Digital Direction at the Royal College of Art (RCA).
We began our journey by exploring the concept of circles and cycles, applied to time and space, within the concept of a post-Covid world where people have been constantly searching for a return to normality from unsatisfactory and gloomy present conditions.
By introducing the concept of cyclical time, much like how the ancient Mayans saw the progress of time, we wanted to suggest a way of seeing our current circumstances with an outlook of acceptance and resilience.
Our experience with creating biased AI
Further discussion of these current circumstances, however, led us to look closer at our present conditions as students at the RCA, and we began to see problems that were yet unaddressed by many educational institutions regarding AI-led discrimination and the erasure of personal identity (e.g. our email addresses consisting only of numbers instead of our names), and we decided to explore this through a speculative approach, creating an AI character called Ace I Ri who, according to our narrative, would be the first AI student to attend the RCA and integrate themselves into the education system. Through Ace we hoped to raise questions about the role of virtual identity, control and rights in the relationship between humans and AI.
However, we faced some ethical issues in the visual representation of Ace and found how difficult it would be to realise this project without being constantly at risk of being discriminatory and unethical ourselves, and so we decided to change route again, while sticking with the idea of the erasure of identity and discrimination in AI.
This has brought us, in appropriate fashion, full circle to our current and final project.
The Circle now
The Circle is a multi-platform initiative denouncing the biased algorithms used on popular teleconference platforms, with a focus on Zoom. The main part of the project is an interactive installation with audio-reactive elements. Participants stand in front of a set of microphones, one for each person. They can talk and make sounds freely, one at a time or over one another. In front of them, a projected screen shows fuzzy, ill-defined black and white virtual versions of themselves, a circle surrounding each of their heads, which becomes larger and clearer in shape the louder the participant speaks, reacting in real time to the audio.
Ultimately, The Circle shades light onto the problematic algorithms that weaken individual's online identity on teleconferencing platforms. Through our many projects' development, we introduce the conceptual tool of circular identity. A circular identity represents an untouched and respected online identity, which is the ideal but unachievable concept which we hope to reach someday. The Circle is the first step to reach a normalisation of circular identities.