Net Worth

September 15th, 2005

Net Worth is a very cool project by Osman Khan.

The visitor is presented with a kiosk with a magnetic card reader that stands in front of a monolith-like structure. An image with people’s names at various heights on various colored fields is projected on to the monolith. The visitor is encouraged to swipe their purchase card (credit card, ATM cards, etc), the visitor’s name contained on the magnetic stripe of their payment card is parsed and googled. The results (the number of hits returned) from the Google search (the most used method of finding information on the web) on the individual’s name is represented by positioning or ranking their name vertically on the monolith’s projection. Their name appears on the projection among others who have swiped as well as some higher net worth individuals (celebrities, politicians, artist, and other famous figures were also fed into the system not only as a litmus test for the mortal visitors but also as a reflection of our social condition.. who has more Google hits Paris Hilton or William Shakespeare). Thus the visitor can view their Net Worth in respect to others. Interestingly even though for most non-celebs, the number of hits returned is full of “dirty” data, i.e. hits corresponding to same named people who do not correspond to the individual who swiped their card, at the installation the projected name is perceived as a true embodiement of the individual who swiped – and the names success and failure wholly falls on the participating individual.

The visitor’s card is not charged, only the information kept on the magnetic stripe is used. Also, apart from the visitor’s name, which appears in the piece, no other information from the credit card is kept in the system.


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