Edward A. Shanken has published a new essay entitled “Investigatory art: Real-time systems and network culture” in which he links circa 1970 work of Hans Haacke and Jack Burnham to new media work from the mid 90′s to the present. He has picked some of my favorite pieces by Heath Bunting, Josh On, UBERMORGEN et al, and Beatrice da Costa, as well as my own work. Shanken writes:
Mandiberg’s Real Costs (2007) gives real-time feedback on the environmental impact of travel; it consists of a Firefox plug-in that anyone can download and install in their browser. When searching for flights from commercial travel websites such as Expedia.com, the plug-in inserts Co2 emissions information into the results. When looking up airfares the user retrieves not only the price in dollars but also the ‘real cost’ in terms of carbon emissions for the journey by plane, car, bus, and train, as well as the number of tree-years required to offset the pollution and the annual per capita carbon emissions by country.
By providing the user with instantaneous feedback about the environmental consequences of their travel choices, Real Costs harnesses the potential of real-time systems to, in Burnham’s words, ‘gather and process data … in time to effect future events within those environments’. Indeed, similar programs have been adopted by municipal public transportation systems, such as the HKL in Helsinki. In this example, an artist’s innovative work not only creates awareness in an art context but also anticipates and provides a model for similar applications in a larger social context.