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My computer thinks I am a woman


NEWS Photographer Dmitry Kostyukov recently experienced a rich dialogue with an algorithm belonging to a Scandinavian swimwear company. He’d been auto-mistaken for a Y chromosome, and digitally invited to become a brand ambassador. Dmitry accepted, and received the sample suit of his choice, an influencer name and instructions on how to photograph himself wearing the product. This exposes one facet of what advertising has become, commodified advocacy. Following is the text of his statement about the project, filled with reminders of what today constitutes the new paradigm of product promotion. Caveat emptor.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor
Filed by Lucire staff/March 14, 2020/18.04


My computer thinks I am a woman.
   I found out quite a long time ago, but it was mostly just a funny topic for small-talk between friends.
   How did I recognize this about my computer? Sometimes via the feminine form of address though Google Translate, sometimes by ‘Merci, Mademoiselle Dmitry Kostyukov d’avoir acheté votre TGV ticket,’ sometimes by automatic redirection to the women’s section at online shops and other small businesses. Did I do something specificially for this? No. It just happened somehow.
   One day, I got an email with proposing a collaboration. After a brief conversation, I realized that it was sent to me not as a photographer, but as a model for a women’s swimsuit brand. And yes, they produce swimming suits only for women, and are a company founded by women. Of course they are very progressive, from the north of Europe, and use diverse models.
   I never hid my identity, and I decided to say ‘Yes’ to see how the algorithm would work on me. On January 22, I became a Bright Ambassador with the nickname Bright_Woman. The algorithm recommended a Bora-Bora bikini or Scarlet Cora one-piece. I decided to start with Scarlet. I received a welcome email from the CEO (obviously automated), and the possibility to share a 15 per cent discount with my friends (let me know if you need one) and, of course, a package with a swimming suit: welcome to the intersection of the online and offline worlds. Indeed, I know this is the way that brands try to sell their products—we all know it—but there is also the way that the machine see us. So what might it see? I weigh 82 kg, which probably means a plus-size (for the average height) woman, who sometimes reads feminist texts, with 10,000 followers on Instagram. Apparently, I suit their advertising.
   Is it all true? I got the message during the winter. If my computer knows me at least a little bit, it should know I never ever go to the beach on vacation. I’ve probably gone on a holiday where you need a swimming suit and head to the beach a maximum of two times in my life. I’m not even sure if I have a togs or shorts. But the algorithm assumes I do.
   Using the brand’s Instagram and iconic Dutch beach portraits as references, I went to the nearest beach—at Den Haag in February, with the crazy wind, rain and a 7°C temperature (which felt like 0°C)—to connect the algorithm and a contemporary brand’s vision with my actual reality.—Dmitry Kostyukov







Dmitry Kostyukov

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