University of Virginia


Researchers: Jon Bellona, John Park, and Rob Mertens

#CarbonFeed directly challenges the popular notion that virtuality is disconnected from reality. Through sonifying Twitter feeds and correlating individual tweets with physical, ephemeral traces of air released into water, the work reveals the environmental cost of online behavior and its supportive physical infrastructure.

#CarbonFeed works by taking in realtime tweets from Twitter users around the world. Based on a customizable set of hashtags, the work listens for specific tweets. The content of these incoming tweets generates a realtime sonic composition. An installation-based visual counterpart of compressed air being pumped through tubes of water further provides a physical manifestation of each tweet.

With the advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, humans have increased their production of digital content. Even simple online interactions generate carbon emissions; a Google search has been estimated to generate 0.2 grams of CO2. To keep pace with growing online media, there is an increasing dependence upon data centers, which now account for two percent of the U.S.’s electricity consumption.