Post Date: May 26, 2015
As part of this year’s Parsons Festival, four Parsons students – Sophia Callahan (BBA Design + Management ’15), Chris Fussner (BBA Design + Management ’15), Noah Emrich (BFA Integrated Design Program ’15), Henry Lam (MFA Design + Technology ’16) – created an interactive experience to educate people about the trail of data we leave behind with every digital interaction. Says Sophia Callahan, DataCafe is “just trying to open a little door that a data economy exists. Just telling people that I think is shocking to a lot of people.”
DataCafe is an installation that allows a person to transact a single piece of their personal data in exchange for a cookie. By making this transaction explicit for the user we highlight the value of personal data and question how the human is considered in a data driven society.
The user’s experience of the installation begins with a prompt to input text on a website, either on provided computers in the installation or on their personal device. The website asks the user to input 50 words about how they are feelings that day (this is the data creation). Once submitted, the data is processed through Alchemy API, where the sentiment of their memo is parsed and archived. The participant then receives a code to unlock a cookie cabinet. After they leave the installation, the participant is then emailed a targeted advertisement about their initial data creation.Through this interaction, we aim to provoke a realization in the minds of users between the data they create online and the internet services monetization their data for profit.
The cloud sculpture plays with imagery of what people think of when they hear the word ‘cloud’ in reference to digital storage, and what that ‘cloud’ actually is – a data center.
The Visualization panel are a collection of the data submitted displayed through a speculative “monetization” of that data and real time and historical data from the Alchemy API keywords to describe the real-time feelings of the installation.
The print media in the installation, Data Weekly and The Data Times, are pieces of digital literacy that show the spectrum ends of the dialogue around big data. On one end, the Data Weekly promotes the blind optimism that is often used by tech-enthusiasts that believe that “big data will save the world,” and on the contrary, The Data Times, takes a more critical standpoint and provides think pieces and essays about how big data affects society.