Jeff Thompson (b. 1982, Minneapolis/USA) is an artist, programmer, and educator based in the NYC area. His work explores collaboration with, empathy for, and the poetics of computers and technological systems. Through code, sculpture, sound, and performance, Thompson's work uses conceptual processes like remix, translation, and visualization to physicalize and give materiality to otherwise invisible processes. He is currently Assistant Professor and Program Director of Visual Art & Technology at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and co-founded the experimental curatorial project Drift Station.
Emails often contain tiny 1×1-pixel transparent or hidden images called “web beacons” used to track when the message has been opened. I gathered all 12,383 of these pixels in my email inbox and deleted mail folder. They were etched into a piece of clear acrylic and shown leaning against the wall, an accumulation of invisible yet real objects.
So many web technologies are hacks that transform the experience of being online in ways that are both hidden to the average user, and yet are easily seen if one knows where to look. Like cookies and Google Analytics code, web beacons are invisible signals, hiding in plain sight and transmitting information about how you use your computer.