Real Costs
Rhizome Commission Proposal by Michael Mandiberg

Core Concept:

Real Costs inserts unperceived costs into mapping, e-commerce, and shipping websites, highlighting the hidden environmental costs of products and the many impacts of consumerism via a Firefox plug-in. These hactivist interventions will visualize the costs of automobile trips, present the different environmental costs of shipping, and map out the global-migration of products in the first-world import economy.

When you get directions on a mapping website like Google Maps, the website calculates the mileage and duration of your trip.   Based on the MPG and emissions of your car, and the cost of gas in the state of travel, I will add the ability to calculate the gas used, the cost of that gas, and CO2 emissions produced by the trip.   Along side of this data, the script could also include the equivalent values of other transportation modes: bus, airplane, bicycle, foot.   I will do this for the major mapping websites.

I will create similar interventions into shipping websites like and the checkout area of major e-commerce sites like   Here the script will tell you how much CO2 emissions each mode of shipping will produce.   As users are presented with the fact that the faster a package is shipped, the more pollution is produced, actual behavioral change is possible.   Airplane ticket sales, and car rental sites provide similar possibilities.

Most of the products we consume are not produced where we live; sometimes it is in the next state, sometimes it is on the other side of the world.   I will calculate and insert the distance a given product has traveled from creation to consumption, and the percentage of the overall cost that is due to transportation.  

How project will be realized:

The project will be realized as a plug-in for Firefox, and as a PHP toolkit for web developers.   The plug in will be written in Greasemonkey DHTML, and compiled as an XPI plug-in via the Greasemonkey Compiler (   The data models and the data sources will be ported to a PHP toolkit for e-commerce developers to incorporate into websites.


In March 2006 I successfully completed the Oil Standard userscript for the Greasemonkey plug-in.   Greasemonkey scripts are written in a specific variant/style of DHTML.   During this process I was able to gain mastery over this variant of DHTML.   I expect no problems with the programming involved in this suite of scripts.


Pre Production (July)
Research environmental impact models
Research car mileage data

Production (August-September)
Programming of the Firefox Plugin
Beta Testing
Porting the script to a PHP toolkit
Launch and Promotion


Artist Fee/Artist Labor:              
12 weeks, 40hrs/week,
@ $6.75 (minimum wage)
Studio Cost:    
3 months @ $400/mo
Hosting/Domain Registration 1yr   $100

Research Assistant   
(Funded by College of
Staten Island/CUNY Grant)

Total   $6540
Total secured from other sources   $2000
Total funded by artist   $1540
Total requested from Rhizome   $3000


Click here for full html CV

Michael Mandiberg is a conceptual artist, computer programmer and rogue economist who uses the internet, video and performance to explore subjectivity, labor, and commerce. His current work delves into creative appropriations of outsourcing, artistic uses of open API web platforms, and the global dependence on oil. He recently launched Oil Standard, a plug-in for the firefox browser that converts all prices on any webpage into barrels of oil with a live price feed from the New York Mercantile Exchange. In 2001 he distributed perfect copies of copies on, and put all of his possessions up for sale on Shop Mandiberg. His work has been exhibited at such venues as the New Museum for Contemporary Art, New York City; Ars Electronica Linz, Austria; and the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany. An Assistant Professor at The College of Staten Island/CUNY, Michael lives in, and rides his purple bicycle around Brooklyn.

Work Samples

Oil Standard, 2006

Oil Standard is a Firefox plugin that convers all prices on a webpage into barrles of crude oil, exploring the moment when oil replace(d) gold as the standard by which we trade all goods and currencies.

IN Network, with Julia Steinmetz, 2005

In preparation for a long-distance relationship we switched our cell phone plan to the same network for free calls. Six months into the nine month separation, this project documents the extent to which our relationship was conducted through technology and how this technology changed our relationship.

Bush Poll, 2004

There are 153 persons named George Bush in the US phone directory; during the run up to the 2004 election I performed an opinion survey about their political opinions, their polarization over political issues, and their potential reflection of an American people divided over their Presidential representation.

The Essential Guide to Performing Michael Mandiberg 2002

A do it yourself guide to performing the character known as Michael Mandiberg, with extensive diagrams, photographs, and descriptions; prepared for The Exchange Program.

Shop Mandiberg, 2001

On New Year's Day 2001, I launched Shop Mandiberg, a fully functional e-commerce site which marketed and sold all my possessions. In April I added the sale of my time with the section entitled Michael Mandiberg Freelance Conceptual Artist. This performance lasted for the entirety of 2001, closing on New Year's eve, during which time I sold roughly one third of my possessions. The site exists as it appeared on the last day of business, with the ability to purchase removed.