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What is your popularity worth?

Gifted teacups

Gifted is a participatory installation that was built in 2008 for the Impakt Festival in Utrecht. That year the theme was "yourspace" so we took the opportunity to create a reflection on the future of social networks. A photographic overview of the installation can be found here.

The desciption in the festival brochure was as follows:

"Hyves, YouTube and many other websites dominate the internet. Does this mean we are heading to a future where social networks dominate out lives? During the impakt Festival  2008 the image of the future briefly becomes a reality.Using your mobile phone you will be able to judge the people around you using your mobile phone. You might rate their sexyness, or whether they are dangerous. The ratings people give you decide your experience of the festival: we make your popularity tangible. Will you get an extra cookie with your tea?"

How does it work?

During the festival we built a hip social web 2.0 application that with a few special characteristics.

Gifted Button with your Impakt-ID on it

First, it can not be found online, but only in the spaces of the festival.

Secondly, it was used through SMS, Bluetooth, a mobile application or a terminal. People were able to vote on anyone at the festival who was wearing one of thebuttons, which displayed a unique avatar and an "Impakt ID", a unique personal number.

Thirdly, each day you voted on a characteristic that was related to the festival's theme of the day. One day you might vote on 'nerdiness', another on 'kinkyness' or 'drug addictedness'.

Voting was easiest using the mobile application: you just entered the number of the person you were voting on into the application, selected the number of stars you wanted to award them for that day's question, and press 'vote'. An added bonus was that we could then follow visitors through the spaces using bluetooth, making it easy for us to find them.

The gathered data allowed us to pinpoint the biggest perceived nerds of the festival, or the people perceived to be the most or least kinky, etc. These statistics were then used to recreate the effects from Doctorow's book (more about that on the right). Your rating decided whether you were given things or if they were taken away.

For example, we handed out soup. Freeze-fried soup from a packet to people with a low rating, normal soup to people with an average rating, and deluxe soup to people with a high rating.

We had many such things. Good things didn't always happen to those with high ratings. One night people with a low rating got to paint pictures which were then given to people with a high rating. Even though the pictures they painted were taken away from them, they had arguably had the most fun.

Another fun thing were the chairs that you could only sit on with a certain rating:

betere stoelen voor populaire mensen

Finally, we felt free to play with the system too. During the 'kinkyness' night for example we suddenly removed the anonimity it offered by adding stickers with the corresponding number of stars to everyone's buttons.

One of the fun parts of the system was that, whenever some one voted, it was beautifully visualized on large screens, a video of which can be found here.

All in all we consider it a great succes, and more importantly, had a lot of fun doing it.

The project was built together with Impakt, The Roomware Project, Nulaz, Lava designers and Barcinski&Jean-Jean and could be experienced from the 7th till the 11th of May 2008

The foundation

The foundation, founded in 2006, promotes wireless media art in public space.



Stichting, opgericht in 2006, promoot draadloze mediakunst in de publieke ruimte. initieert en ontwikkelt projecten, installaties en organiseert kleinschalige evenementen en workshops die gericht zijn op  bewustwording  van de mogelijkheden van draadloze media. Waar mogelijk werkt samen met andere (kunst)instellingen.


Down and out in the magic kingdom boek cover


Gifted is based on sciencefiction writer Cory Doctorow's book "Down and out in the magic kingdom" which can be downloaded for free. In his book he describes a society in which "Whuffy" has replaced cash.


Gifted @

Gifted @


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