The Alibaba and Aliexpress search bars are the doors to the thousands items sold, by factories and resellers, to a worldwide customer network. Algorithms control when, how many times and in which order the searched products — i.e. dress, belt, suitcase, hat — appear on a visitor’s screen. By looking at Alibaba and Aliexpress like naturalists, Arvid&Marie approached the two digital platforms like ecosystems. They analysed several algorithms, narrowing in on the sorting algorithm and renaming it: Alibabaum Sortium.
In the process of exploring the power of the Alibaba recommendation algorithm, Arvid&Marie were drawn to specific products whose physical existence is a source of doubt: it is unclear whether they occur as purchasable items or if their role is to entertain customers and keep them browsing through Alibaba’s interface. Buyer’s Desires are a collection of object simulations, in paper, of what Alibaba claims are its most desired products. While looking at this collection of Alibaba artefacts, the algorithm impersonated narrates its way of life. The other side of the reconstructed objects is printed with the metadata that writes their existence into the digital world, teaching us about Alibaba’s understanding of objects.
Text by Arvid&Marie
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