We are becoming more aware of the amount of data which we throw on social media. But still this does not seem to have an effect on the way we use these platforms. Facebook is, like most social media, free to use. This is possible because we have become the product that gets sold to the highest bidder. Our data is very valuable for companies to send us specific advertisements and social media platforms are very aware of this.
Of course, it is difficult to imagine ourselves as a product because we don’t experience our online data as a physical possession. Companies buy online actions such as likes, comments and other forms of online information, but these are always copied and never physically taken away from us. Everything which exists online is untouchable, it is always very near but at the same time very distant.
How would we react if data was instead something we could physically own? Would we be more aware of the fact that companies are treating us as mere products? Would we look at someone’s data in a more intimate way? To answer these questions, I created an installation in which it becomes possible to buy someone’s Facebook timeline. This timeline consists of all the pictures, locations and other information someone has shared on their Facebook profile. For 2 euro you can first buy the permission of the owner and for another 2 euro you can buy their timeline.
With this installation I also want to create a contrast with the way our data is normally used by companies. They usually process our data through programs and algorithms making a human link unnecessary. If instead you choose to buy a stranger’s physical data, you are buying an intimate view into their lives. The physical aspect also makes it impossible to swipe through someone’s data at the speed of light, which is possible online. This forces you to wade through someone’s stream of data, as you would in someone’s book.