Living Metadata offers a critical assessment of the growing mass of metadata within digital society. It presents a hypothetical solution to the energy drain caused by technologically augmented living. The potential energy of human metadata creation is harnessed here to fuel bacterial growth and create microbial fuel cells, which in turn are able to power the cycle. In this way, the human becomes both digital and living metadata. Metadata, in turn, becomes waste in the volume of information. Living Metadata presents a system which is sustained by waste production.
Using the open source electronics prototyping platform Arduino and computer processing, a human breath is converted into metadata with the creation of a tweet. Another circuit reads Twitter in search of some new metadata. When such data is received, food in the form of light is offered to the bacteria. For the purpose of the prototype, motors move the living batteries when the bacteria is fed to represent the energy produced and collected by the process.
Metadata production grounds the seemingly virtual digital ether in both time and space. Temporal change can be measured in bytes while metadata takes the form of actual objects, which have a profound social impact beyond their numerical dormancy on computer drives. Metadata production is revealed here to be an embodied experience. Last but not least, all data is metadata.
This project was completed as part of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design summer school in July 2013. It was a collaboration between Calum Bowden, Nancy Huang, Sara Anand and Raquel Machín Herrero.
Sara Anand is a Product and Interface Design graduate with a penchant for designing products and services that create stimulating experiences. She is intrigued by user- and research-driven spheres, embodied in interaction design. She is also curious about people – their perceptions, eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, the cultures they build, the societies they live in, the customs they follow and the stories they tell.
Calum Bowden is currently studying for a degree in Anthropology at University College London. He is interested in exploring how knowledges about different modes of practice, representation, experience, transformation and interaction can influence our digital futures.
Nancy Huang is a student at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. In her practice she is interested in exploring what happens when human constructions of life and of life substance are mediated by different technologies.
Raquel Machín Herrero has a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and Art Edition. She has over five years of industry experience in digital design and three years of experience in print design. Her passions stem from her early love for drawing and admiration of record covers.