Yes in Disguise
Simon Boas and Kris Blackmore
The widespread willingness of users to share their deeply personal and often controversial beliefs through networked digital platforms offers opportunities for targeted conversations on sensitive cultural issues. As users of networked devices and services, we voluntarily externalize many aspects of our personalities as online data. The sprawling data that comprises our online selves can expose security flaws in our social values. Artists can appropriate data that has been shared publicly but is buried under layers of social networking noise to disrupt regressive cultural norms.
The OkCupid dating website holds a great deal of information about heterosexual male users and their views on women and sexual consent. All that’s required to access this data is a female profile, which anyone can easily create. The dating site collects most of this data through multiple-choice questions, and one answer stands out: “A no is sometimes really a yes in disguise.” The core of “Yes in Disguise” is a computer program that searches through nearby OkCupid profiles to find men who have chosen that particular answer and downloads a curated sample of their data: their profile photo, their username, their city of residence and their statements on women and sex. The data is used to produce a limited edition of trading cards that dissolves the illusion of privacy and gives weight to these persistent attitudes.
“Yes in Disguise” is an exercise in social hacking. The data representing the personal views on consent of many men is technologically but not culturally vulnerable. Conversations about consent do not always happen at the appropriate time. This project pushes those conversations beyond the safety of the screen. It calls out men for creating rape culture via their online selves so that we may challenge that culture as people rather than statistics.
Simon Boas (simonboas.com) is a socially engaged data and video artist whose work investigates the theme of permissions at the intersection of technology and personal life. He has recently presented his work in Amsterdam, Rome, San Francisco. His practice is largely informed by his experience as a journalist and documentary filmmaker, and he has created multimedia projects for Oregon Public Broadcasting, Drain: Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture, Root Division, Nisus Gallery, the Everett Daily Herald, and The Santiago Times. In 2017 he co-founded MidGray, an art and design collective that investigates consent and privacy with the help of technology.
Kris Blackmore (krisblackmore.com) is a socially engaged designer and visual artist with over a decade of interdisciplinary expertise in fashion and graphic design. She holds a degree in fashion design from The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and currently works in the commercial design industry as a freelance art director for clients such as ADT, Disney/Pixar, and Vonage. Her work utilizes design thinking and speculative fiction to explore and execute on themes of toxic masculinity, environmentalism, community-oriented design, and design inclusivity. Her work has been presented in Rome, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, California. In 2017 she co-founded MidGray, an art and design collective that investigates consent and privacy with the help of technology.