Net Worth

February 2004

The visitor is presented with a kiosk with a magnetic card reader that stands in front of a monolith-like structure. A projected image with people's names at various heights on various colored fields is projected on to the monolith. The visitor is encouraged to swipe their purchase card (credit card, ATM cards, etc), the visitor's name contained on the magnetic stripe of their payment card is parsed and googled. The positioning or ranking of their name appears vertically on the monolith's projection, which represents the number of hits returned by the Google's search on the individual's name. Their name appears on the projection among others visitors who have swiped as well as some higher net worth individuals (celebrities, politicians, artist, and other famous figures which were pre-fed into the system not only as a litmus test for the visitors but also as a reflection of our social condition... who has more Google hits Paris Hilton or William Shakespeare). Thus the visitor can view their net worth in respect to others.

Material: Magnetic Card reader, Projector, Computer, Custom Software, Ethernet, Wood, Drywall

Dimensions: 10' x 8' x 2.5'

Full Text +

The Internet has come to be the primary aggregator, disseminator and communicator of information. As we increasingly give dominance to information over materiality, (i.e. the Bush administration's decision to go to war based on information and not actual material proof) new forms of power structures emerge. Individuals with greater net presence (read more hits) are deemed more significant and those with little or none become inconsequential. Net Worth explores a new value system for our information dependent society.

The installation setup is as follows:

The visitor is presented with a kiosk with a magnetic card reader that stands in front of a monolith-like structure. An image with people's names at various heights on various colored fields is projected on to the monolith. The visitor is encouraged to swipe their purchase card (credit card, ATM cards, etc), the visitor's name contained on the magnetic stripe of their payment card is parsed and googled. The results (the number of hits returned) from the Google search (the most used method of finding information on the web) on the individual's name is represented by positioning or ranking their name vertically on the monolith's projection. Their name appears on the projection among others who have swiped as well as some higher net worth individuals (celebrities, politicians, artist, and other famous figures were also fed into the system not only as a litmus test for the mortal visitors but also as a reflection of our social condition.. who has more Google hits Paris Hilton or William Shakespeare). Thus the visitor can view their Net Worth in respect to others. Interestingly even though for most non-celebs, the number of hits returned is full of "dirty" data, i.e. hits corresponding to same named people who do not correspond to the individual who swiped their card, at the installation the projected name is perceived as a true embodiement of the individual who swiped - and the names success and failure wholly falls on the participating individual.

The visitor's card is not charged, only the information kept on the magnetic stripe is used. Also, apart from the visitor's name, which appears in the piece, no other information from the credit card is kept in the system.

Money as Information as Body

Net Worth at one level wishes to explore current conditions where information is given more prominence than the corporeal. The monetary systems of the world are to be understood as really a vast accounting system where moneys exchanged is actually data transferred. As such entrance to the work, the card swipe echoes a familiar interaction with obvious financial overtones. However the social condition of the swipe is subverted as means to explore another notion, that of information as body. ID cards, Credit Cards and the like are already deemed more proof of person than the actual physical bodies. Add to this the existence of the Internet and the action of googling entering our everyday language, new relations between the corporeal and the virtual are created, new structures of social strata and value have emerged.

On an experiential level Net Worth also examines individuals' narcissism and hubris, much like carnival hammer hit games where physical muscle was tested, Net Worth gives chance for visitors to flex their data bodies. How do you rank against the Joneses, against your best friend, or against your favorite celebrity?

Despite my initial fears that visitor's would hesitate to swipe their credit cards, curiosity and exhibitionism prevailed and most visitors' names filled the monolith - or at least the lower half… humbling… but hey you still ranked higher than your best friend.

Exhibitions +

Net Worth has been shown at the New Wight Gallery, Los Angeles, USA, Dangerous Curve Gallery, Los Angeles, USA and has been awarded a Design Distinction in the Concepts Category in I.D. Magazine's 51st Annual Design Review (Aug. 2005).