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Beanbank

Maf'j Alvarez - MA Digital Interactive Arts.


June 2014
Beanbank is an online data capture tool which uses playful beans as tokens for asking
Whats important to you! Beanbank takes a cheeky look at what data you are happy to
gi"e away when you spill the beans e"eryday as an internet user!
Whats important to o!"
By turning Beanbank into a game with a score# a reciprocal and participatory model is
established! Beanbank is gi"ing data back to you but only after you ha"e gi"en
something up! $his is common practice for data capture and the reason why so many
apps and games are free! %ou are then put in a position to make your own &udgements
about whats really important and whether you belie"e that other people are really
being honest about whats important to them gi"en the limitations of the computer
interface! 'coring is a simple case of bean(counting based on e"eryone elses beans! )f
there are *0 beanbags with +o"e in# then each +o"e bean is worth *0! )t seems to
suggest that "aluable beans are actually abundant , which contrasts with the idea that
"aluable beans are in fact rare!
#merging tren$s
What emerges o"er time is a clear set of 4 or * words with a high "alue! What is
interesting by contrast is the lack of words which would seem arguably important in
todays online world! Words connected with notions of the indi"idual# wealth# power#
control# agency# data# pri"acy# identity# and political ideas in general! Why is that
-lthough Beanbank is a"ailable on the web to anyone in the world and is fairly
lightweight and fast# it has not been promoted beyond a fairly small social network
radiating from a culturally educated group of people in Brighton# ./! $he results
probably say more about Brighton than they do about whats important to people
e"erywhere!
Beanbank is purposefully simple! $here is a mi0ture of data 1delity and data gardening
to follow the growing metaphor established! 2mpty beans are deleted# lower case beans
are capitalised to enable the "ery simple scoring to take place!
3aming things that are important
4n a deeper le"el the game e0plores the power relationships and technological
determinism behind how we are interacting with the world around us! $he language of
data and programming is signi1cant in shaping how people respond to computer(
mediated world with no human interface to enable dialogue and discussion!
5rogrammers working to create new software are constantly naming their classes#
functions and ob&ects! 6ata cleaning also forms a big part of the work of de"elopers
dealing with databases! 3ormalising data in"ol"es somehow making di7erent types of
data compatible for the purpose of analysis# in the process remo"ing# deleting or
otherwise altering the originally entered data! $hese issues ha"e surfaced during the
making of this work!
3e0t steps for Beanbank
)n July 2014 Beanbank will stop recei"ing new beans! -t this point the database will be
made publicly a"ailable for download as an open data source for use in data
"isualisations or for any other purpose! ) will be taking the opportunity to pull the bean
data back into the physically interacti"e 8ootbeans game# using the accumulated "alue
and learning from Beanbank to inform the content and direction of the game!