YOU WILL: A Detour Into Dataism


Materials: Outdoor blue back poster paper, vinyl banner, single channel video

Dimensions: variable

Year: 2018

According to internet folklore, twenty five years ago AT&T’s prescient 1993 ad campaign entitled ‘YOU WILL’ played a key part in launching the field of computational propaganda via the world’s first ‘pay per click’ (PPC) digital advertising banner.

The successes of PPC technologies saw the exponential rise in algorithmic forms of automation in the ad tech industry. 25 years on, ad platforms, web publishers, and other intermediaries have developed an infrastructure of data collection, surveillance and targeting capacities that scholars refer to as the architectures of a new economic logic – surveillance capitalism.

Surveillance capitalism emerged as a new philosophy – Dataism,  began to replace human liberalism as the defining ideology of the 21st century. Dataism is based on the premise that more data equates to more truth. Today, surveillance capitalists extract all human experience and convert it into behavioural data in order to predict what our future behaviours will be for their clients – the advertising industry. Machines are learning how to constantly infer judgements about you; what you believe is important; and what you will do next as a result.

‘YOU WILL’ detournes the original AT&T corporate advertising campaign, taking it ‘offline’ and into the gallery space to infer the effects of the latest developments in machine learning and behavioural sequencing by algorithms and AI originally developed for ‘pay per click’ advertising. In the context of multiple investigations into Russian state interference in western democratic processes both in the UK and US, YOU WILL also examines what the logic of surveillance capitalism means for notions of individual agency in relation to democratic processes as our behaviours – past, current and future, are now traded to predict how we will behave at home, in the shopping mall, and in the voting booth.

Learn more about the YOU WILL project here.

Photo credits: Martha Cooper, Vasily Kudryavtsev,

Gallery: Artmossphere Street Art Biennial III, Winzavod Centre for Contemporart Art, Moscow