Social Thing#3

Social Thing #3 (2019). Interactive data-driven installation (custom electronics, custom software, microprocessor, peristaltic pump, lcd screen, aquarium, water, fish, data from twitter)


This is the third project of the Social Things series. Social Things are augmented common objects that dynamically change parameters of their functionality and appearance according to data retrieved from social media activity. They reflect on behaviors that appear on social networks such as the divergence between digital & physical identities, dataveillance, technological mediation of social interactions and internet materiality. Social Things address critically the notions of Internet of Things and Social media, shedding light on the social consequences of their use. The Social Things series consists of three projects: inflated_ego, #freeprometheus and Social Thing#3


Social Thing#3 draws attention on internet materiality and reflects on the divergence between digital actions and physical consequences.

It consists of an aquarium containing a micro-scale ecosystem of fish. The parameters of the ecosystem are affected by social media activity on twitter related to climate change and global warming. The activity that promotes climate change awareness deteriorates the conditions of the ecosystem, thus revealing the contradiction between our digital activity and its material impact on the physical world. Daily online activity has a negative effect on the environment despite the ecological awareness we may promote on social networks. The operation of internet presupposes a physical infrastructure that consumes natural resources and pollutes the environment. Social media platforms are among the most visited sites worldwide, but the environmental impact of their use is often overlooked by their users.

A microprocessor with internet connectivity and a peristaltic pump are embedded into the aquarium. A custom algorithm detects tweets tagged with hashtags like “climatechange” and “globalwarming”. The algorithm controls the electronic circuit, so every time a twitter user uses these hashtags, the amount of water in the aquarium decreases: the peristaltic pump is triggered and it transfers water from the aquarium to another vessel. This activity can potentially deprive the fish of water (however this will never happen as the installation ensures that the level of water in the aquarium cannot fall under a given level, so that the eco-system cannot be harmed). An LCD display shows data related to the detected hashtags and the users that posted the most recent tweets.

The proposal of the project has been shortlisted for the EMARE 2019 award by the European Media Art Network.

Related Talk: “Augmented objects interacting with social media activity” @ Ionian Academy, Corfu, May 2019