Media Lab Europe
Human Connectedness research group

Desktop Subversibles

a collection of background awareness applications based on desktop ubiquity

Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Stefan Agamanolis

Desktop Subversibles capitalizes on the ubiquity of our interactions with computer desktops to convey awareness of activity and a sense of shared network space among the members of an online community. The applications in the suite add a networked and physical dimension to standard desktop activities like copy/paste, mouse movements, and clicks to highlight their collective and collaborative potential.

MouseTraces / a background graphical display of mouse movements between two people across distance

MouseTraces is an application that focuses on background connectedness and awareness between two people across distance. Looking at the specific relationship of networked computer usage, the project captures mouse movements on the desktop and transmits a graphical representation of this movement across the network to the other person.

ClipIt! / a networked sticky-note application that provides ambient glimpses of the copy and paste activity of other users

ClipIt! is a networked application that provides an ambient connection to other people's desktops by distributing the contents of each user's clipboard. The project works like an automatic Post-It or sticky note that is meant to allow people to catch a glimpse of the cut and paste activity on other people's machines.

MouseMiles / a networked collective mouse milage indicator manifested in physical space

MouseMiles is a networked mileage indicator for your mouse. Over time it calculates the mileage traveled by every connected mouse and relays that information to a central server. The server collects all of the incoming mileage and outputs the distance in real-time to move a physical object, such as a model train around a track.

Clicks / a distributed mouse click collector rendered as sound in public space

Clicks is a networked application that collects mouse clicks made by each person connected. Once collected, clicks are sent to a central server and each connected client is assigned a unique tone which is played in a physical location, creating an ambient sound installation serving as an indicator of computer use on a potentially global scale.

Publications and Links

  • Desktop Subversibles was featured on NoemaLab, June 2003.

  • Desktop Subversibles was featured on, March 2003.

  • Desktop Subversibles was featured in Digital Visions, University of British Columbia, May 2003.

  • MouseMiles demo movie (Quicktime, 5 MB).

  • Jonah's web site describing all four Desktop Subversibles.