Bidding and the Beat

Sex and teletext, e-commerce and elektronische tanzmusik collide in The Sound of eBay, the latest internet intervention (and a 2008 Rhizome Commission) from, which generates unique low-fi electro tunes from individual users' eBay data. Visit the project's site, generously decorated with 8-bit teletext porn, and enter your (or anyone's) eBay moniker and an email; a specially-tailored mp3 arrives in your inbox in a matter of hours. According to's own account, an invisible army of bots scours the World's Largest Online Marketplace (tm) to scrape data and bring it back to be transformed into music. How a given user's actual data corresponds to the structure and content of each tune is not evident to the listener, but relates to the eBay-Generator application's own idiosyncratic system of producing and processing hashsums from user-to-user transactions: more frequent eBay bidders may receive denser compositions, and two different songs created from the same username can differ. In the future, the creators of eBay-Generator plan to release the application under a GNU Public License. The Sound of eBay concludes a trilogy of works by known as the artists Lizvix and Hans Bernhard--including GWEI (Google Will Eat Itself), an economic ourouboros that generates money off Google text ads then uses the income to buy Google stock, and Amazon Noir, which exploited Amazon's "search inside" function to create pirated versions of full books. Unlike these latter acts of digital ju-jitsu, the parasitic Sound of eBay has a relatively benign relationship to its host organism. Celebrating with only partial irony the auction giant's peer-to-peer distributed capitalism, the Sound of eBay offers a way to shake one's booty to the hidden rhythms of electronic commerce. - Ed Halter, the Sound of Ebay "Visuals" (Screengrab), 2008

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