Network Effect: Human Life on the Internet
A network effect is the halo that results when each new user of a given service—the telephone, for example, or Facebook—inadvertently makes the service more valuable to others simply by joining it. But is this kind of value creation necessarily a good thing? “Network Effect,” which made its debut online in October, suggests that it may not be. “Once people come in, then the network effect kicks in and there’s an overload of content,” Greg Hochmuth, a software engineer who helped build Instagram, told The New York Times. “People click around. There’s always another hashtag to click on. Then it takes on its own life, like an organism, and people can become obsessive.”
To explore the consequences of this kind of behavior, Hochmuth and Jonathan Harris collected 10,000 YouTube snippets of people doing ordinary things—yawning, eating, falling, cuddling, 100 different actions in all. These were then trimmed, cropped, processed, sped up, layered with voice-overs, set to the sound of a human heartbeat, and transmuted into a stream of frenetic, anxiety-provoking activity. Users are not permitted to see the whole thing at once. Instead they see a message like this:
From your IP address, we see you live in The United States, where the average life expectancy is 78.4 years — so after 7.84 minutes (7:50), your access will be blocked for a day, so you can get back to your life.
Jonathan Harris (artist/computer scientist) and Greg Hochmuth (artist/engineer)