10:00 - 20:00
The Presence of Secrets

Short thesis

The Presence of Secrets is an interactive installation that provokes questions around our relationship to machines, and the ways in which our private correspondence is digitally and intractably distributed. What kind of logic or intelligence is beyond or behind this screen? What sorts of secrets do we have? Who is watching or reading our words? The installation brings up questions around emerging technologies, cultural norms, individual identity, and uncertain futures.


An interactive installation designed by Sarah Newman, Jessica Yurkofsky, and Matthew Battles, from metaLAB at Harvard, that addresses ideas around our complex relationships to, and trust of, machines, as well as the uncertain futures of our private digital correspondence. 

The Presence of Secrets is an installation that is part of a research project led by Sarah Newman, on the topics of trust, privacy, digital correspondence, and the future. The work considers questions such as: “Will our great-grandchildren read the words we type now, including our private correspondence? How might this affect their understandings of us, and of themselves? Is it possible to truly delete something once it has been distributed in the digital world? What can we learn about ourselves *now* by reflecting on the secrets we keep and how we feel about them?”  The research has been conducted in collaboration with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

The Presence of Secrets  is an interactive media installation, shown for the first time in 2016 at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. A viewer is invited to type a secret. As soon as the person hits “enter” the printer will be print another person’s secret, which the viewer can then take with them. The computer is running a program which will add the submitted secret to the secrets database that the piece will draw upon for successive interactions.

There are two additional remote secrets printing stations. These remote printers are set to print secrets at unspecified intervals for passers-by to collect. The printers also occasionally print other media, including surveillance photographs and other textual responses related to, or inquiring about, the submitted secrets. 

You can find this interactive installation on the 3rd floor at the labore:tory during the second and third #rp17 days (Tuesday & Wednesday: 10.00-20.00).