{   }topia

An alternative space between utopian and dystopian viewpoints of today’s technology.
Design research
Future scoping
Concept development
Art direction
4 weeks

The Challenge

With the act of curation becoming an increasingly important aspect of communication design, develop and curate a critical ‘point of view’ through an exhibition.

The Outcome

I exhibited {  }TOPIA, an participatory web experiment for CAPTCHA series to provide space for alternative thoughts towards the ambivalent reactions towards emerging technology.


We are living in a complex world faced with constant technological change, and our reaction towards this change is ambivalent.

To unlock my curiosity towards AI safety and ethics, I had a desire to first look into people’s emotional, ethical, socio-economical response towards today’s technology.

With an aim to provoke thoughts and pose questions about future of humanity, I created {  }TOPIA, a playful CAPTCHA experiment and launched it in Dark Matter exhibition at Falmouth University. 

CAPTCHA as a medium

CAPTCHA(Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) is used as a method for communication and is the Turing test we encounter on daily basis in our computer mediated lives.

Originally, CAPTCHA was developed to protect websites against bots and spam, but instead, I focused on its function distinguishing computers from humans by asking users to ‘prove your humanity’.

The most recent version developed by Google is called No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA which asks users to tick a box to prove you’re not a robot. It is much more time-efficient and user-friendly because all of our interaction with the ‘I’m not a robot’ box is monitored and helps to identify user’s humanity. 

However, to be more interactive and give people more time and space to think and respond, I chose the initial form of CAPTCHA which asks people to decode the distorted image of letters that computers find difficult to read. 


I wrote a short script of conversation between human user and machine and made that into ten repetitive CAPTCHA dialogues to communicate with the audience by real time interaction as if it was a computer speaking to a human user.

I’m smarter than you.
I don’t think so.
I can beat you.
Do you fear me?
We are not evil.
I don’t want to destroy humanity.
I’m here because of you.
Don’t fear me too much.
Just bear in mind,
I’m smarter than you.

{   }TOPIA builds on the concept of speculative design which achieves its goals through the use of thought experiments. By this process of CAPTCHA thought experiment, the reaction of visitors could be shown somehow uncomfortable, humorous or something else.

My end goal was to instill curiosity and to build a public space for activating thoughts about machine intelligence and its impact on future humanity.

Try to read out loud the CAPTCHAs featured in {   }TOPIA. Prove you’re a human and see how you feel.


Copyright © 2019 Sekyeong Kwon