Pump and Surf – Exchanging physical energy for digital information

Created by Aurélien Pellegrini at ECAL (Media and Interaction Design BA) ‘Pump and Surf’ encourages internet users to find out how much energy is spent when they are surfing the internet. Before being able to view a website, the user is asked to make a physical effort equal to the energy required to convey the data that will enable the site to be displayed. Through interactive experiences and graphic visualizations, ‘Pump and Surf’ leads users to take the measure of the quantity of energy involved in the exchange of information, to the point of feeling it physically.

I have often wondered what energy it takes to display a web page on my computer? Is it a big or a small energy ? Can it be compared to a human effort?

Aurélien Pellegrini

It is common for energy to be expressed in kilowatt-hours. As this measure is generally seen as abstract to many, Aurélien was curious whether this could be represented in a way that is more perceptible. He decided to link energy expressed in numbers to the own energy produced through physical exercise. The aim of ‘Pump and Surf’ is to let users learn how much energy is required to load a webpage by inviting users to ‘pump’ a certain number of strokes, a physical effort equivalent to the amount of energy used by internet to send a page to your computer.

1 stroke = 30 [kg] * 0.25 [m] * 10 [N/kg] = 75 [J]

The pressure sensor detects when the air pressure between the pump and the sensor increases. The energy of one stroke is calculated as per Energy = mass [kg] * height [m] * gravity ]N/kg]. The above is the energy needed to make the pump go to the end of its stroke and thus compress the air inside. The extension uses the “1 byte” model made by the “The Shift Project” to calculate how much energy is used by internet to display a website. You can find more information about the model on The Shift Project website.

The device consists of a pump, a pressure sensor and a cable. To connect the sensor to the computer – a chrome extension is required. The extension can be activated on any website and will affect the appearance of the website as the content is “loaded”. The extension loads an overlay on the screen that includes the amount of pump strokes that are required to make the website appears in its original form. This amount is calculated by the extension to correspond to the energy used by the internet to send this website to this computer. Each website will require a specific number of pump strokes since some are very heavy in data while others are lighter. The more data there is, the more energy it will required to be loaded.  

The extension uses the “1 byte” model made by “The Shift Project” to calculate how much energy is used by internet to display a website.

Hardware includes a classic foot pump (painted in green), a 3d printed case, an Arduino uno, a pressure sensor (MPX5700 from NXP) and a case (DAP-Audio Daily Case 9). Software relies on the the open source code from carbonalyzer and combines html / CSS / Javascript, the Chrome extension, Chrome web request API to observe and analyze traffic, Web Serial API to read data from sensor through USB port, Matter.Js to animate the physic of the bubbles and finally ‘Termina’ font for text and ‘Europa’ font (Guillaume Besson) for numbers.

Project Page | Aurélien Pellegrini | ECAL

Project by ECAL/Aurélien Pellegrini
Tutors: Alain Bellet, Gael Hugo, Christophe Guignard, Laura Perrenoud, Pauline Saglio
Assistants : Callum Ross, Pierry Jaquillard, Pietro Alberti, Sébastien Matos
ECAL / University of Art and Design, Lausanne Switzerland
Bachelor Media & Interaction Design
Images by Gianni Camporota

See also “Crank The Web” (2001) by Jonah Brucker-Cohen


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