Digital artist Dries Depoorter is kicking sore shins with his new project “The Flemish Scrollers”. Using artificial intelligence, he detects which politicians are scrolling on their mobiles in the Flemish Parliament, a Twitter account then shames those politicians. His motive? “Demonstrating the dangers of existing technologies.”
A remarkable photo of the Flemish government is doing the rounds on Twitter. No fewer than four of the nine ministers are strumming their smartphones in the Flemish Parliament while the plenary meeting is in progress. Above the GSM users also circles a certain percentage, which gives the impression that it shows how long a particular politician is scrolling during the meeting.
But Dries Depoorter, the driving force behind “The Flemish Scrollers” – the Twitter account that shared the photo – emphasizes to our editors that this interpretation of the percentages is not correct. “The software I’ve made searches the YouTube videos of the Flemish Parliament for visible smartphones using machine learning and artificial intelligence. Then the program tries to detect the face of the mobile phone politician through facial recognition. The percentages simply indicate the chance that it is actually a telephone and the chance that it really is the politician in question.”
What does Depoorter actually want to achieve with that project? “I’ve been a professional artist and speaker for five years now, trying to create playful digital projects. With this project I mainly want to demonstrate the dangers of existing technologies. I leave the public free in their interpretation.” Whether he mainly wants to denounce the mobile phone use of politicians, or the fact that he can pillory people with a few simple clicks, Depoorter leaves it up to you.
In any case, Depoorter is treading on the sore toes of many politicians with his project. “Pretty ridiculous”, writes MP Ben Segers (Vooruit) on Twitter. “This must fit in with the populist image of all politicians are lazy, and I’ll pass for that.”
Flemish Member of Parliament Maurits Vande Reynde (Open VLD) agrees: “I constantly use my tablet/laptop during debates. Obviously not when arguing directly with someone. We are 2021, you work better with communication tools.”