Robert Nideffer

 

Born in Ventura, California, 1964
Lives in Los Angeles

PROXY, 2001

PROXY Portal: proxy.arts.uci.edu/
Agent Application: proxy.arts.uci.edu/agents/
Tutorial: proxy.arts.uci.edu/tutorial/

Website

The term "agent" is used to describe software that filters and customizes data, creates user profiles, and tracks user behaviors. Robert Nideffer’s PROXY is a head-game about agents and agency that revolves around what the artist calls "unorthodox methods of information discovery, file-sharing, data mismanagement and role-play." Agents come with a wide range of functionality and intelligence, which ultimately defines their beneficial or damaging aspects. The personal agent that lives on your hard drive, manages your files, and reminds you to "empty your trash" may not seem a particularly threatening entity. However, agents that promise to monitor information for us while exchanging that data with other agents have the ability to transform us into digital sitting ducks. By attaching themselves to our data-bodies, they turn us into easy targets for marketers and advertisers.

While most of today’s software agents are developed as closed systems for commercial purposes, PROXY is an open-ended, multi-agent development environment that others may freely extend. Players personalize their agent by rating such things as their ability to "perceive others’ emotions," their desire to "be in the limelight," or the stability of their moods and behavior. Once the agent is set up and the system is installed, players can import personal data and begin exploring. PROXY uses several interfaces that allude to different gaming experiences, including a text-only interface reminiscent of Multiple User Dungeons (MUDs) and a 3D arcade-style game interface. As you move through the environment (north, south, up, down etc.), you encounter monsters (such as the curator, the professor, or the hacker) in a play on art-world and academia. Players may also choose to sit back and watch what happens as their agent starts to work on their behalf.

By facilitating distributed, collective, and slightly out-of-control data processing, PROXY is a reminder of what software agents can be: a playful exploration of identity, community, and information exchange, but one that raises rather serious questions about who we are and how we behave in online public space.


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Robert
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