A Cookie for Your Data?

A Cookie for Your Data?
Arts & Culture exhibition seeks to assign value to data that you give away every day to collectors like Facebook

Leigh Ann Renzulli
  • 14 august 2015

How much value do you assign to your status updates on Facebook? If you’re like most people, you probably don’t even think about it. That’s why Parsons School of Design students Chris Fussner, Sophia Callahan, Noah Emrich and Henry Lam created A real-time exhibition presented at New York City’s NYCxDesign last May, the cafe’s goal was to get people thinking about the value of personal data by instructing them to exchange a piece of data for a homemade cookie.

Participants were first told to sit down at a computer and write down how they were feeling.

“We would ask them, ‘how are you feeling today?’ because for a company like Facebook that’s more valuable information than say, your religion or where you live because they can get that somewhere else,” said Fussner.

The person would then have to type fifteen words about how they were feeling in order to get a code that would unlock a cookie cabinet on the other side of the table.

big data

big data

“No one is really talking about it—the human data interaction,” said Fussner. “We wanted to have more people discuss data and the data economy. Especially as we get more and more connected, the data economy is only going to grow.”

big data

The group wanted to act out a transaction that is often only discussed in very conceptual terms. Exchanging an actual object for the participant’s data spelled out what isn’t always obvious; when you hand over your personal data, that is a real transaction that translates into monetary gain for tech companies.

big data

“Your data is being tracked and your information is being sold,” said Callahan. “There’s not much you can do about it, so you might as well be aware of it. It was a pretty tongue-in-cheek exhibition. You give us your data, we’ll give you a cookie, but we’ll still take your data. We’ll see how you feel after.”

So how did people feel?

big data

“A bunch of people told me that they felt really self-conscious typing how they felt, because the text was really big and people behind them could see,” said Emrich. “Which was exactly the point—to get people to be more conscious about what they are putting out there.”

+Parsons School of Design

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