Every click means something

Nick Boers ,

After around ten minutes, the voice is sure. My busy click behaviour, ‘competitive and irrational’, can mean only one thing: male. Simply by moving my mouse, I have revealed much more about myself than I previously thought possible – or perhaps even wanted.

This story is about clickclickclick.click, a new online experience in which every click has meaning. Do you click on the large green button in the middle of the screen and if you do, for how long, how often? Do you leave the cursor standing to the left or right? Or perhaps you don’t take it easy at all, but prefer to drag the button around and customize your browser? Clickclickclick.click follows up on the art installation WE ARE DATA and tackles the themes of big data and privacy in a similarly playful yet serious way.

‘Something that the VPRO told us, for example, is the fact that the people in the Kalverstraat are all filmed and profiled and that is then shown in the display windows,’ explains Roel Wouters of Studio Monker, which has delved into this follow-up project on behalf of the Medialab. ‘This is something that few people are aware of, that this kind of information is actually being sold. This is really big business and we take part in it without ever having given our permission. In a wider context this relates to big data and the fact that every movement we make as consumers has value.’

‘WE ARE DATA is a physical installation and is thus only available to a limited number of people,’ elaborates business partner Luna Maurer. ‘We wanted to convey the same themes to more people and therefore chose for a web-based approach.’

‘Of course, people know that they are being monitored online,’ continues Roel, ‘but the fact that every single movement you make on your computer, that these could ultimately be monetized—‘

Luna: ‘—that meaning can be attached to them.’

Roel: ‘Or that they could be analysed, we thought it would be fun to translate this theme in a simple and playful way.’

Luna: ‘I am actually quite internet aware, yet I am still often surprised that, after I have viewed something on a website, a second later I’ll see personalised advertisements.’

When I just took a photo of your office with my telephone, I instantly received a notification from Google Maps, asking whether I would like to add that photo.

Luna: ‘Scary, isn’t it? I think so too. You feel that everything is connected, that everything just contributes to a bigger picture of you as a person.’

Roel: ‘On one hand it’s scary, and on the other hand it is simply the advancement of technology. It is very easy to be scared of it, but it is also very special.’

Luna: ‘It is not that we say that this is wrong, but more that we want to show it. What we do is really quite funny: we use a voice, a kind of psychologist who assigns characteristics to behaviour that is actually nonsense. Moving your mouse quickly or to the bottom right-hand corner doesn’t mean anything, but we have made something that does give it meaning.’

Roel: ‘That is essentially the description of the project: everything we do has meaning or can have meaning.’ 

Luna: ‘We have consciously chosen to leave out the content. All you see is a green button, nothing else. You don’t see a photo or other layer with which you can interact, there is actually nothing al all. And yet you are still subject to analysis.’

Roel: ‘In all this the voice remains relatively superficial, you could say, but that just gets you thinking: what does he mean by that?’

Luna: ‘You make the analysis yourself.’

Roel: ‘And so it eventually turns into a kind of game, in which you do everything you possibly can with your browser in order to progress further.’

Indeed: I’ve been racking up achievements. Click on the button three times, enlarging the window, stand still for one minute… you name it. What is the meaning of all of this?

Roel: ‘We have been doing this for a few minutes and then you reach the point that you have done all the simplest things. Now it is quite difficult to think of new things. The achievements help you to think of new directions to go in. At a certain point it actually becomes fun that it is more difficult, as it should be in such a game. But you’d be able to complete it in a week.’

And then?

Roel: ‘That’s a surprise.’

about moniker

Studio Moniker comes from Amsterdam and, in its own words, focuses on ‘how we use technology and how it influences our daily lives’. As such it has made, among others, the interactive music video Out of Line, an experimental ode to the cursor in Pointer Pointer and combined Malevich’s Black Square with self-portraits for the Anti Selfie Club.

Roel Wouters: ‘Many companies working with technology, they are very fast and focus on the now and the future. They look at the newest of the new and want to carry that forward. And we really have the feeling that we live with history, the work of other people, those who have gone before us. Where other technological oriented studios primarily want to advance forwards and believing in engineering in a really positive way, I think we are more reflective. Then it becomes much  easier to link Malevich with selfies.’