What does the Internet sound like? If we are able to hear, we know from an early age that every place has a distinct soundscape associated with it. Our home sounds different than the park, the park sounds different than our place of work, and the market is different yet again. The place that has begun to resemble all of these physical sites, and yet is wholly different, the Internet, has no sound intrinsically associated with it. Imagine if every other space were devoid of sound. How different our ideas of these places would be, how impoverished our understanding of them.
The Internet is a place like any other that we navigate during our daily life. Because there are no sounds native to the Internet we think of it as something that remains behind our screens. However, our use of the Internet has a very real impact on us and on our computers. By using Tone.js and the HTTP cookies installed on users computers this extension creates a soundscape that encourages users to think of the Internet as a place. While this is not a comprehensive soundscape for the Internet, it is a start, and hopefully will facilitate a richer understanding of the Internet and its underlying technologies.
This soundscape can be heard on any computer that has a Google Chrome browser installed. Once the extension is installed, the user can listen to the sounds created by the cookie payloads delivered by the websites they frequent. HTTP cookies are used to track and monetize Internet users. When they were first introduced to the Internet, cookies were used to store the status of a user’s e-commerce shopping cart. Cookies were a tool to help people buy things. Today, cookies are used for the buying and selling of personal data, and users are not effectively allowed to opt out.
This extension was made so the user can hear the vast numbers of cookies being installed on their computer as well as some of the more pertinent traits of those cookies. Our sense of hearing is ideally suited for this purpose because it can process much more information, at a faster rate, than our eyes. While we think of ourselves as a visual species, the user is invited to reconsider this idea, and use their ears to experience what is really going on when we use the Internet.
On the left a sketch of the proposed installation. On the right a recording of the cookie payloads from Compform, Facebook, Google, Reddit, Techcrunch, Vogue, and The Woks of Life.