THE YOUTUBE DESCRAMBLER
In our brains, a new idea is born when two disparate and previously unrelated memories are connected, or when a third memory is introduced that links the two. Our culture's popular conscience works in a similar way. If YouTube is the contemporary popular conscience made visible (viewable), its financial interest in the popularity of its content is a hinderance to innovation and the birth of new ideas. YouTube ensures that popular videos are the most heavily promoted because it can charge more for ads on those videos. Unpopular or rarely viewed videos therefore are relegated to the bottom of the pile, with the obstacle of capitalist corporate interest further obscuring them from view.
In YouTube Descrambler, a user approaches a black box projecting a popular YouTube video on a nearby wall. The user sees a large crank arm, and, familiar with this affordance, begins to crank. Immediately the user feels resistance, but as she cranks, she sees another video, beginning to peek out from the bottom of the projection. The more she cranks, the more others crowd around her, encouraging her to reveal the bottom video. This video is an unpopular video, which has been relegated to obscurity by the capitalist meritocratic system embedded in YouTube's algorithms.
This piece references a cable descrambler, invented in the 1980s to hack cable systems and allow users to access premium content, in front of which obstacles had been placed, namely the scrambling algorithm.
The YouTube Descrambler is visually striking: a sleek, black acrylic box with regularly spaced ventilation holes and internal LED bulbs. It resembles an object from a not-so-distant future. It will be rather simple to build, and extremely easy to interact with, its antique crank and handle immediately inviting users to investigate it.
For the Design Exchange Boston opening reception, we decided to take the futuristic idea that everyone will have a YouTube Descrambler in their living, and combine it with a 1960's setting. We added an actress dressed in 1960's attire to host our event, as if attendees were entering her living room.
This project is part of Terra Preta Lost Cities, a collective that works to subvert the growing influence of algorithmic inference in every aspect of human existence. TPLC rejects the notion that human life is enriched through inferences made by emerging ambient intelligence technologies.