Networked Optimization is a series of three crowdsourced versions of popular self-help books. Each book contains the full text, which is however invisible, because it is set in white on a white background. The only text that remains readable consists of the so-called “popular highlights” – the passages that were underlined by many Kindle users – together with the amount of highlighters. Each time a passage is underlined, it is automatically stored in Amazon’s data centers.
Among the books with the most popular highlights, there is a striking number of self-help books. This points to a multi-layered, algorithmic optimisation: from readers and authors to Amazon itself. Harvesting its customers micro-labour, the act of reading becomes a data-mining process.