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Virtual Gravity [Processing]



Virtual Gravity is a diploma project by Silke Hilsing representing the importance and popularity of search terms (Google Insights for Search) in the form of physical weight.

Built using Processing , Arduino and reacTIVision, the installation allows you to measure weight, ie popularity between terms via “loading” the information into pads which are then positioned on mechanical scales. Terms that “weigh” more send messages to Arduino controlled cylinders which lower and rise depending on the terms “weight”, ie popularity in Google Search Insight . You can search desired terms via keyboard input operated via the same pads.

The basic interaction is to weight and compare the virtual weight of information. The kind of  action reminds deeply of handling with a real beam scale. So the audience has the possibility to use his foreknowledge of everyday life, it knows what how to use a scale, how it reacts and how the relation between two weights is to be read and interpreted

An interesting and very well executed project. A bridge between the digital and physical, the project also also raises a number of  questions about it’s social and cultural relevance, ie whether the ‘popular’ is actually important considering the value of data. For example, is the weight of “britney” of more value than “iran“. This may be a subjective exercise further questioning whether a feature to input your google credentials to access your search history and weigh terms this way might give a more individual relevance of data importance. I would nevertheless love to measure some terms, ‘Feather’ vs ‘Rock’ springs to mind, which one is heavier (digitally)?

For more information + detailed description of the project visit

See also Digital Decay [Reference, Theory]: digitisation of our civilization

virtual gravity – the physical weight of data from Sillenet on Vimeo.