TERRITORIES: making visible the kinds of invisible and virtual spaces you occupy online, allowing you to opt out from them if you so desire…
I created a web plugin for the Google Chrome browser that people could download and run alongside their daily web-browsing activities. The plugin keeps track of the kind of websites that the user visits and the type of space they represent: commercial, social, public, private, political…
Opening the plugin window, users will be presented with a snapshot of their online time, broken down statistically, with the option to needle down into extra layers detail – for example, the geographical location of the web servers they are ‘visiting’.
This portrait of their online life allows web users to better understand the virtual spaces in which they spend their time – and, hopefully, to make better and more informed choices about how they occupy space online, challenging their preconceptions and behaviour in the contested space that is the internet.
During the Innovation Lab in Leeds, our group had a wide-ranging conversation that took in a lot of subjects, from the personal to the political.
We spent some time looking at the specifics of the question, ‘How much space do we need?’ – mainly interrogating the meaning of the words ‘how much’ and ‘need’.
We talked a lot about how definitions and functions of space are not always up for us to define and are, in fact, often imposed on us. Later on, we talked about a trend towards minimalism, as seen in the developed world – how the silicon valley image of futurism is one where our possessions and services live in the cloud, which is seemingly space-less, but how in reality the situation is very different and that every item of clothing we wear, the food we eat, or the technology we use, still requires the use of space: the only difference is that this is a space which is increasingly invisible to us.
From this, we then moved on to talk about assumed behaviours and ways of sharing and existing in virtual spaces – our discussion centred mainly around social media and the all-encompassing presence of these platforms in our lives.
As a general note, one of the most interesting things to crop up in conversation was that not everyone agreed or shared the same politics (or level of interest) when it came to the issue of privacy and digital freedoms. Many people believed that this wasn’t really a problem that affected their lives, or their ideas around space.
I wanted to create a plugin as I am interested in experiences that rub up against, or create friction with, our everyday behaviours; the idea of a small, discreet program that allows you to think of your digital presence differently, therefore, felt particularly exciting.
The prototype was built with dummy data as a wireframe, and the screenshots above give a sense of what the user experience might be once the plugin has been installed.