Datacafe tests consumers appetite for data exchange

“We wanted to explores surveillance, digital literacy and internet infrastructure through the lens of the data economy,” says artist and technologist Chris Fussner, speaking about DataCafe, a recent collaborative project shown at Parsons Festival testing the idea that consumers would give away data to get something back in return.

Upon entry, users can input up to 50 words of text on a website, summarising their feelings that day. That snippet of data, processed through artificial intelligence software Alchemy API, is then archived and in return the participant receives a unique code to unlock a cookie cabinet. After leaving, visitors are sent a targeted ad showing how marketers use data.Bringing awareness to the fact that personal data has real monetary value, the design collective comprising of four students Fussner, Noah Emrich, Sophia Callahan and Henry Lam, challenges the evolution of data technology.

“In this project, we wanted to make explicit the everyday data creation and transaction we go through when online,” continues Fussner. “The interactive installation probes the questions of where does the human stand in relation to big data? Prior to doing this project or even understanding anything about privacy, surveillance or data, we had already agreed to hundreds of terms of services. That means that probably hundreds of companies own our data and we hardly have any rights — as participants in a global network. Why don't we have any control over it?”