Digital Arts and New Media: MFA: Collaboration, Innovation, Social Impact

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Social Cost Tracker (Spring 09 - Winter 2010)

The Social Cost Tracker is an open-source mobile technology designed to promote just labor and ecological practices by informing consumer choices at the point of purchase. The phrase "social cost" here refers to both the human capital exploited and the natural resources expended in the production of consumer goods. We are in the early stages of development and conceptualization and are looking for organizations and companies interested in collaboration.


A Project of University of California Santa Cruz graduate students from the Departments of Engineering, Digital Arts and New Media, Social Documentary, and Anthropology. This interdisciplinary team is working under the guidance of faculty members Sharon Daniel, Professor and Chair of Digital Arts New Media MFA program, and James Davis, Associate Professor, Computer Science, School of Engineering.


This project was exhibited at the 2010 01SJ Biennial: Build Your Own World.

Do you "build your own world" through the choices you make about what you buy and what you wear? What do you care about? What are you angry about? What do you desire? Do your choices effect the environment? human rights? What do the purchases you make say about your personality? your politics? What are the social costs of your consumerism? Can we read the answers in the clothes you are wearing?

At ZER01, the Participatory Culture Research Group from the University of California, Santa Cruz Digital Arts and New Media program, created a participatory-media research laboratory where festival-goers were invited to make micro-documentaries – individual video-portraits that relate the history of the clothes they are wearing and reflect the social cost of their consumer decisions. Each participant’s portrait will become part of a collective portrait of how we, at ZER01, “build our own world” through what we buy.