Mouse Labour

A project about value of human labour

  • in: Digitally Yours, Turku & OFFLOAD, Bristol
  • by: Juha Huuskonen & Tuomo Tammenpää
  • for: Digitally Yours, Aboa Vetus, Turku
  • in: 2007

Mouse Labour Institute is a parody of a commercial research organisation. The goal of the project is to explore the nature of contemporary mode of work which is based around the use of personal computers. The working days of a ‘mouse labourer’ consist of sitting still in front of a computer screen, typing text on a grey keyboard, occasionally making a selection with a click of a mouse. This simple, mundane activity is in stark contrast with the ever increasing speed and complexity of the digital online environment.

The image of the worker in the era of industrialization was a person placed in front of an assembly line, engaged in monotonic, repetitive work. This depressive image has been replaced by a young, smiling officeworker who is holding a telephone in one hand and computer mouse in the other. The era of industrilization introduced the idea of improving worker’s performance by making exact measurements of his movements. In a similar spirit, Mouse Labour Institute promotes ‘scientific’ tools for improving one’s ‘Mouse Performance’ and thus suggests a comparison between mechanical labour in the times of the industrilization and today’s visions of successful living in the information society – blurrying the border between one’s work and personal life, feeling the need to be always reachable, trying to keep up with the quick and restless tempo made possible by the technological advancement.

The main product of Mouse Labour Institute is a software tool for monitoring and improving one’s mouse use skills – the “Mouse Performance Improvement Kit”. The software will record the user’s mouse movements and clicks over a duration of one week, after which the results can be analysed on the institute’s website. The analysis is based on simple information (mouse movement speed, click/movement ratio, etc.) but presented using scientific flowcharts and provocative marketing language (‘Your Digital Speed/Accuracy’, ‘Your Absolute Connectivity Potential’, etc).

Mouse Labour Institute project is launched in March 2007, as a part of Digitally Yours exhibition at Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum in Turku, Finland. Mouse Labour Institute is presented in a form of a marketing booth, featuring demonstration videos and a “Mouse Performance Test Station” (a basic computer desktop with a game for testing mouse skills). The visitors also have a possibility to purchase their own special edition of the “Mouse Performance Improvement Kit” from the museum shop.