Vending Machine

Ellie Harrison 2009

A rundown but functional old vending machine stands alone in the kitchen at The Open Data Institute. Every now and again, without warning, it springs into life – spewing out free packets of crisps for gallery visitors. The machine has been modified. It no longer functions in the conventional way – at the whim of snack-hungry people – but instead now finds itself in the control of outside forces… Its new nervous system is a networked computer. Hidden out of view and running special software, it continually scans data from the news on the BBC News RSS feed – commanding the machine only to release snacks when words relating to the recession make the headlines.

Whilst seemingly an act of generosity – gifting free food at moments when data indicates that further doom and gloom is reported – the Vending Machine also hints towards a time in the future when our access to food may literally be determined by data connected to wider political or environmental events. We may not be able to access what we want, when we want, at the touch of a button.

Vending Machine was one of the outcomes of Ellie Harrison’s period of residency at Plymouth College of Art in 2009.

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Vending machine, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, network connection, bespoke software


Data as Culture 2012
July 2012 - March 2013 at the Open Data Institute

2018 at the Open Data Institute

Data Types

Commercial, Identifiable, Real-time, Retrieved, Shared, Social

About the Artist

Ellie Harrison was born in London in 1979 and now lives and works in Glasgow, where she sees herself as a ‘political refugee’ escaped from the Tory strongholds of Southern England. She describes her practice as…
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Vending Machine, Ellie Harrison, 2009