June 23, 2022

Installation shows how data usage affects our ecological footprint

We rarely think about how all of our internet and data usage impacts the environment. The past two years have seen a huge increase in data usage with large numbers of people staying at home, having online classes, endless Zoom meetings, streaming movies and TV shows, a explosion of crypto and NFT, and other online things that we do. There have been studies showing how much carbon dioxide is consumed with all this use, so we need to be a little more aware of our ecological footprint.

Creator: Thijs Biersteker

The artist is known for his ecological works that raise awareness of the current issues we face. His latest art installation is called MB>CO2, a machine that shows the real impact that online activities have on the environment. There are three monitors displaying different activity on each like Zoom call, Spotify playlist, Netflix viewing, etc. They are then linked to a mini-computer which displays the emissions calculations for each of these actions.

The actions then trigger a release of carbon dioxide in a spherical terrarium with certain plants. You will see plants begin to visibly wilt as carbon dioxide rises and more Internet activity occurs. People can actually call the facility in order to see the real effect in real time. The algorithm even takes into account where the caller is connecting from and what hardware is being used.

Of course, to show the impact of Internet activity on the environment, you will also need to use the Internet and devices. The artist has therefore tried to limit the impact of this installation by using recycled steel in the construction and by choosing screens and computers with low energy consumption. It also limits plant machine operation to just half an hour per month to avoid actually killing the plants and to limit the carbon dioxide that will be released once the biotope is opened.

The purpose of the installation is to show the real physical impact that using the internet brings as it is difficult for us to visualize it. All the electricity and energy that powers our devices and servers and data centers contributes to the carbon footprint, but we are not really aware of it. The artist hopes this installation will make us think about these things as we continue to browse the internet on our various devices.

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