The Google Adwords Happening
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Artist: Christophe Bruno
Confronting Bodies: Google
Date of Action: April 2002
Description of Artwork: In April 2002, Christophe Bruno launched a serie of large scale poetry happenings on the Internet using Google Adwords. 12,000 persons saw his poems in 24 hours.
The Incident: After 24 hours, the happening was censored by Google. The censorship occured for economic reasons related to the global equilibrium of the market economy of words on Google.
Results of Incident: "...The price of words: towards a generalized semantic capitalism.
One of the most interesting facts is that we have reached a situation in which any word of any language has its price, fluctuating according to the laws of the market.
Words already had some kind of exchange value, but we hardly realized it: if I insult somebody, I will get something in return, such as a punch in the face, for instance. But now there is no doubt anymore. The word "sex" is worth $3,837, the word "art" $410, "net art" only $0.05 (prices on the 11 of April 2002). Prices are determined according to the number of search requests and an average Cost-Per-Click.
At first sight, there may be something healthy in the fact that words may have a price. If you know you have to pay, you are more careful when you have something to say. And if you see that every person who clicks on your link, makes you lose 0.05$ (as is the case in the Google system), you think twice before writing your sentence.
But of course there is another side to this story and I have the intuition that this could be a big event in the history of mankind. There aren't many events like that: the invention of writing is one of them, for instance. Right now, we may not realize the importance of this fact because the web is not such a big part of our existence. But imagine the day when a search engine will rule the whole textual content of the web, in which the memory of mankind will be stored. Think of the power in their hands..."