View project on GitHub

Image: Your unerasable text, Stefan Tiefengraber *Image: Your unerasable text, Stefan Tiefengraber *

your unerasable text

Stefan Tiefengraber

Easy, uncomplicated interaction with interactive art installations and an entertaining approach to attract visitors opens up room to learn the story behind the art. These are the main goals of Stefan Tiefengraber projects and a big part of the introduced work your unerasable text. Visitors are invited to print out and shred a text message they have sent to the installation. The installation is available for 24 hours and can also be operated by users not in the venue, creating an independence of opening hours. your unerasable text is easy to interact with, users just need to send a short message to operated the installation. Behind this surface of fun and interactivity, the user is invited to question the background of these technologies. Why do the pieces work this way? What data is generated? Who has access to it? Where is the data?

Your unerasable text is an interactive installation dealing with the topics of data storage and elimination. The installation can be placed in an exhibition, but is ideally exhibited in a window in public space, where it can be used by people passing by 24h a day. The participant is asked to send a text message to the number written on a sign next to the installation: “send your unerasable text message to +43 664 1788374”.45 The receiving mobile phone transfers the data to a computer, which layouts the message automatically. It is then printed on to a DIN A6 paper, falling directly into a paper shredder. There, the message remains readable for a few moments and is then destroyed. The shredded paper forms a visible heap of paper on the floor, growing with every message.

Your unerasable text works via SMS, as it is the easiest and most comfortable way for the participant – and almost everybody owns a mobile phone. The standard for the short message service was implemented in the early 1990s and is still used and integrated in every mobile phone, even in smart phones. Another advantage is that users don’t have to be close to the installation, messages can be sent from all over the world, and they don’t need any additional software or access to the Internet to participate.

When your unerasable text is used, the sent text message isn’t erased. The data is passing by the mobile carrier of the sender and receiver, the mobile that is integrated in the installation and the computer processing the text and sending it to the printer. At each of these points the data can be saved. The installation stores a file of each message consisting of the sent text, the phone number of the sender, and time and date when it was sent. The only thing that actually is erased, is the print, which is just a visualization having no effect on the data itself.

The storing of data is a rather current topic, given the discussions on bringing back the “Vorratsdatenspeicherung” (data preservation) in Germany, along with discussions in the Austrian parliament about passing the “Staatsschutzgesetz” (state protection law) including points to bring back the previously overturned “Vorratsdatenspeicherung”, under the guise of this new law.
Also very recently, the Safe Harbor law was declared illegal by the Court of Justice of the European Union, creating the need for renegotiation between the EU and the US to change this law. This also raises questions about the locations of the servers we are using and the law applied to the data stored on hard-drives all over the world. There has to be a definition of who legally has access to our data and is able to pass our information on to third parties. By end of June 2016 more then 40.300 short messages were collected.

    <li id=fn45> - phone number of the exhibition “Out of Control” in Ars Electronica Center Linz / Austria - ongoing</li>