Finally, a chance to tweet to aliens

Multimedia artists will beam real-time tweets to the newly discovered GJ667Cc light-years away. What do you want to say to your brother from another (exo)planet?

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read
Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern

I have so much to say to aliens, I really doubt I could keep it to 140 characters. But if I'm going to go the "Tweets in Space" route to speak to potential life forms on GJ667Cc, I'll need to keep it short.

The experimental art project will beam real-time tweets toward the exoplanet 22 light-years away during performance events at the 2012 International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in New Mexico.

Tweets will be streamed as animated Twitter spaceships towing messages. Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern

"Simply tag your Twitter messages with #tweetsinspace, and your phones, laptops, mobile devices -- anything with an Internet connection -- will be transformed into an alien communicator," says San Francisco new-media artist Scott Kildall, who is collaborating on the networked performance project with Nathaniel Stern, an associate professor in the Department of Art+Design at the University of Wisconsin's Peck School of the Arts.

Scientists from Carnegie Institution of Washington and the University of California at Santa Cruz who discovered GJ667Cc orbiting a triple-star system in February say its conditions might support Earth-like biological life.

Kildall and Stern can't promise that your tweets will be read by a little green creature (or even a little water droplet) wielding a Samsung Galaxy S III. They can tell you, however, that your musings will be part of an exploration of "our spectacular need to connect, perform, and network with others. [The project] creates a tension between the depth and shallowness of sharing 140 characters at a time with the entire Internet world, in all its complexity, richness, and absurdity, by transmitting our passing thoughts and responses to everywhere and nowhere."

The pair, currently seeking financial support for the endeavor on Kickstarter-like crowd-funding site RocketHub, say they'll use the donations for either a "home-built or borrowed communication system" for shooting the tweets into space. They've raised more than $2,200 so far, and tell Crave that if they reach their minimum goal of $8,500, they'll work with a team that can guarantee at least five light-years of travel for the messages toward GJ667Cc. "We're hoping the alien listening devices are more advanced than our own, so they can pick it up," they say.

Apparently, not everyone appreciates the philosophical intent behind the project. "Expect FBI van in front of your house really soon," one YouTube commenter threatens. Still, close to 1,000 #tweetsinspace messages have already come in. A favorite example: "No YOU hang up. (giggle) No, you hang up."

In addition to getting beamed upward at ISEA in September, all #tweetsinspace messages will be streamed to a live public Web site, where they'll be permanently archived. They'll also be projected -- as animated tweet-towing spaceships like the one pictured above -- at the Balloon Museum and planetarium-like digital dome in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

RocketHub donations, meanwhile, will yield contributor rewards ranging from an acrylic Tweets in Space spaceship stencil and handmade Tweets in Space spaceship soap to (on the high end) a working, small-scale satellite model. Promise me a retweet by ET, guys, and I'm in.