Printing Out the Internet

Printing Out the Internet

Updated May 13, 2015 at 02:04PM EDT by Brad.

Added Jul 29, 2013 at 11:26PM EDT by Platus.

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Printing Out the Internet is a conceptual art project orchestrated by Kenneth Goldsmith, the Poet Laureate of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the curator of the literary resource site Ubu Web.[1] The project was launched in May 2013 as a memorial to the late programmer and activist Aaron Swartz who committed suicide in January 2013. The project was on display at LABOR[12] art gallery in Mexico City, Mexico from July 26th – August 31st, 2013 and by the end of the project, more than 10 tons of paper[6] had been sent in from more than 20,000 contributors.


On May 22nd, 2013, Kenneth Goldsmith created the single topic Tumblr blog Printing Out the Internet[13], issuing a call for submissions[14] that day. Readers were invited to participate in the project by printing out anything they found online and mailing it to the art gallery LABOR in Mexico City. The intended goal was initially to print out the entire internet, filling a space of more than 500 square meters (nearly 5382 square feet) with paper. The first post suggested sending in personal documents, like one's Gmail inbox or blog, as well as archives from sites like Wikipedia, the New York Times and WikiLeaks. It was also noted that all the submissions would be recycled at the end of the show. Additionally, a Facebook page[15] and Twitter account[16] were created to draw more attention to the project. By the end of the project, more than 20,000 people had sent in printed objects. All of their names were collected and posted to a Tumblr blog.[29]


Kenneth Goldsmith

Kenneth Goldsmith is a long-time proponent of what he calls "uncreative writing," or writing which has been produced under constrictions which eliminate the author's own creative control over the result. These methods can include the use of "readymade" artifacts as art objects (a method pioneered by the Dadists), the use of a writing algorithm, or the use of transcription. Prior to this art project, Goldsmith's work has been widely studied and talked about, earning him a great deal of mainstream attention, including a White House lecture devoted to his work (shown below, left) and an appearance on The Colbert Report (shown below, right).

Notable Developments

News Media Coverage

On May 29th, 2013, Yahoo! News[17] was the first to cover the project, noting it was receiving disgruntled reactions on Twitter. Prior to the exhibit opening, Printing Out the Internet was featured on a number of various news sites and art and culture blogs including the Poetry Foundation blog[18], the Daily Mail[19], Animal NY[20], Refinery29[21], the Huffington Post[22], Cnet[23] and PSFK.[24] After the installation opened, photos of Goldstein and the collected papers (shown below) were featured on the Washington Post[2], CBC News[25] and the August 2013 issue of the print magazine Harper's.

E GUSTA THIS MEME WILLBE FUNNIER AFTER I EXPLAIN IT TO YOU t-to-you jpg (800x8 Petition I Please don't print the internet 24.6 2013 15.14 Sigh thbapesi 136'NEEDED Share on Facebook Tweet PRIORITY luokk kloss This petition will be delivered to: kenneth goldsmith LABOR Francisco Ramírez Please don't print the internet Recent sig es CO. DURHAM, GB UNITED KINGDOM NGDONM 2. Petition by 13h Paolo Lug1 Guarner TALY ITALY Mountain View, United States 18h Ben Ponton NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, GB UNITED KINGDOM Mutiply Your Impact TufnMsarwinta^Mkd'ths horeby'sharing this petition and recruiting people you kaow to sign. Siu 15


Less than two weeks after the project's announcement, many bloggers criticized it as wasting paper creating unnecessary carbon emissions. On May 31st, TechHive[26] calculated approximately 4.73 billion sheets of paper would be needed to print out the entirety of the web, stacked at 305.67 miles high. With a year's worth of email is factored in, the stack would grow to 3,3966,850 miles worth of paper. In June, a petition[11] launched to ask Goldsmith to reconsider his project and think about the damage it would be causing to the environment, gaining nearly 500 signatures by August. Throughout June, bloggers from The City Lights booksellers[8], Art F City[9] and Motherboard[27] discussed the physical harm the printing task would create. Many tweets complaining about the waste of paper were compiled on the single topic blog Tweets About Internet Print.[28]

Petitioning kenneth goldsmith Please don't print the internet Petition by Justin Swanhart Mountain View, United States A sustainable responsible approach to life requires that humans adopt a conservative approach to resource usage While it is appreciated that Mr Goldsmith plans to recycle the paper used in his art exhibit, reduction of usage is more important than post- usage recycling Chemicals harmful to the environment are used in the production of paper, and the recycling of paper, not to mention the amount of plastic and ink waste from toner cartridges, ink cartridges and other non-paper related supplies which may pollute the landfill.

Derivative Projects

In July, a piano composer sent an email to Goldsmith asking for permission to use text from the project's Tumblr as part of a piano piece.[3] Additionally, Goldsmith has held staged public readings of the collected material (shown below).[7]



Quantitative Estimation

On March 6th, 2015, the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics[30] published a study conducted by the scientists at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom which estimated that it would take approximately 136 billion sheets of standard A4 papers to create a print copy of everything that is hosted on the Internet.

Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics How Much of the Amazon Would it Take to Print the Internet? George Harwood & Evangeline Walker The Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, University of Leicester 06/03/2015 Abstract This paper explores the idea of printing every page of the internet onto a standard A4 piece of paper, and how many trees, in terms of a percentage of the Amazon rainforest, would be required in the process. By making some assumptions about the size of the Internet, and the type of tree available in the Amazon, it is found that 2.1x10% would be required in order to print Wikipedia alone, 0.002% to encompass the entire non-explicit internet and 2% including the 'Dark web Introduction Despite only being 25 years old, the Internet has grown so that in 2014, 40% of people in the world were using it [1]. Its growth has been not only in the number of people utilising it, but also the amount of information contained in pages within it. What if these pages, instead of being beyond a computer screen, were printed onto actual paper pages? To illustrate how much paper, and consequently how many trees would be needed in this endeavour, the Amazon rainforest has been chosen as a theoretical source for the 'real pages' of the web. However, this is a very conservative assumption, as many web pages could require a conservative estimate of as many as 100 paper pages. Therefore an estimate of average paper pages per web pages of the Internet is estimated as at least 30: 4.54× 109×30= 1.36× 1011paper pages (2) It is approximately this many pages required to print the Internet. Paper from Trees The Amazon rainforest, situated in South America, is To establish how many trees would be needed to the largest rainforest on Earth, despite having lost at print the required number of paper pages, the least 20% due to deforestation [2], it still spans an principle of obtaining paper from trees must be impressive 5.5 million square kilometres, and is discussed. The pulp used to produce paper can be home to approximately 400 billion trees [3]. How many pages? To solve this problem the first thing to consider is how many web pages the internet consists of. English Wikipedia, a substantial website, contains 4723991 pages alone [4]. By considering ten of these pages randomly, an estimate of the average number of paper pages they would each require is estimated as 15, therefore: made from many softwood trees including Birch and Oak, and hardwood trees such as Fir and Pine [6]. Whilst these trees are contained within the 16000 species in the Amazon, for the purposes of this model, it will be assumed that all 3.9x1011 trees can be used to make paper [7]. A reasonable assumption considering the wide variety of trees that are available for this purpose If it were also assumed that the trees of the Amazon are equally distributed across its entire area, then there would be 70909 trees per km2. It is possible to obtain approximately 17 reams of paper per usable tree. There are 500 sheets of individual paper in each ream. This results in a total of 8500 sheets of paper obtainable per tree [8]. 4723991 × 15 = 70859865 paper pages (1) If this is applied to the Internet as a whole, its 4.54 billion pages [5] corresponds to a staggering 6.81x10 "paper pages. 10 How much of the Amazon would it take to print the Internet?, March 6th 2015 Results As aforementioned, 70859865 sheets of paper are required to print English Wikipedia. In reams of paper this would result in: However striking these numbers may appear, what percentage of the Amazon rainforest would actually be destroyed if one were to print the Internet? With a total of 5.5 million km', the 113 km equals only 0.002% of the total rainforest a minute amount to print the entire Internet 70859865 500 141720 reams of paper(3) With 17 reams of paper per tree, this results in a Conclusion total of 8337 trees required to print this one By making some assumptions about the size of the website. In terms of the Amazon rainforest, with Internet, how much paper can be gained per tree, 70909 trees per km2, English Wikipedia would only and that all trees within the amazon can be utilized consume 12% of a single km2, (assuming every tree for paper, it has been possible to determine that the can be used for paper.) printing of the non-explicit Internet would require 0.002% of this rainforest. Whilst this is a very small For the entirety of the Internet however, more of percentage, combined with the numerous other the Amazon would be consumed. With the uses for trees i.e, as a source of material for estimated 6.81x1010 paper pages required to print construction, the rate of deforestation in the the Internet, this corresponds to Amazon is hardly surprising. 661 1010 Also, it is thought the non-explicit web is only a mere 0.2% of the total internet, the rest encompassing the Dark Web [9]. This would mean that printing the entire internet including Dark web would use 2% of the rainforest = 13.62 × 107 reams of paper (4) 500 Continuing the assumption of 17 reams of paper per tree, this would require 8011765 trees. This results in 113 km of the Amazon rainforest References [1] Berners-Lee, T. (03/2014- last update), A Magna Carter for the web [Homepage of TED Talks], [Online] Available: berners lee a magna carta for the web批-70550 [Accessed 20/02/2015] Butler, R. (2014 - last update), Calculating Deforestation figures for the Amazon [Homepage of Mongabay], [Online] Available: [Accessed 20/02/2015] Allianz, (2015 - last update), Climate Change: Ten of the most important forests worldwide [Homepage of Allianz], [Online] Available: change/?669/ten- most-important-forests-worldwide-gallery [Accessed 20/02/2015] Wikipedia, (2015 - last update), Size of Wikipedia [Homepage of Wikipedia], [Online] Available: of Wikipedia [Accessed 20/02/20151 WWWS, (2015-last update), The size of the World wide web, [Online] Available: [Accessed 20/02/2015] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] Processes, P., Trees, H. & Aspen, E., (2008). Trees Used in Papermaking Fact Sheet., (October), pp.1-3 [7] Steege, H. (2013) Hyperdominance in the Amazonian Tree Flora, Science, 342, 6156 8] Conservatree, (2014 last update), How much paper can be made from a tree? [Homepage of Conserveatree], [Online] Available: Accessed 20/02/2015] M. Bergman, White Paper:The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value htt surfacing-hidden-value?rgn=main;view=fulltext edn. Journal of Electronic Publishing, 2001 [9]

Using Wikipedia as their baseline, the scientists determined that it would take about 15 sheets on average to print out each WIkipedia entry written in English and hosted on the encyclopedic site, of which there are about 4,723,991 entries, putting the volume of a hard copy of the English Wikipedia at 70,859,865 A4 sheets.

4723991 × 15 = 70859865 paper pages

With the rest of web pages hosted on "non-explicit" Internet and the Dark Web are taken into account, the team concluded that it would take about 30 sheets of paper to print a web page, yielding a total volume of around 136 billion A4 sheets that would be required to print out the Internet.

4.54 × 109 × 30 = 1.36 × 1011 paper pages

Search Interest

External References

[1] Ubu Web

[2] Washington Post – Printing Out the Internet exhibit is crowdsourced work of art

[3] Printing Out the Internet – Piano Work Inspired by Printing Out the Internet

[4] Printing Out the Internet – Printing Out YouPorn

[5] Printing Out the Internet – Proposal

[6] Printing Out the Internet – 10 Tons of Paper

[7] Printing Out the Internet – Marathon Group Reading of the Entire Internet

[8] City Lights Blog – Poetry and Accountability

[9] Art F City – Kenneth Goldsmith’s “Printing Out the Internet” Is Not About Trash

[10] Tumblr – Beef Triscuit

[11] – Pleast Don't Print the Internet

[12] LABOR – Home

[13] Printing Out the Internet – Home

[14] Printing Out the Internet – ~~ In memory of Aaron Swartz ~~

[15] Facebook – Printing out the Internet

[16] Twitter – @internetprint

[17] Yahoo! News – Printing the Internet

[18] Poetry Foundation – Kenny Goldsmith Wants You to Print Out the Internet

[19] Daily Mail – Artist plans to print out the entire Internet for new exhibit…but needs YOUR help

[20] Animal NY – Why Is Kenneth Goldsmith Printing Out The Entire Internet?

[21] Refinery29 – This Ambitious Art Project Wants To Print The Entire Internet

[22] Huffington Post – Artist Kenneth Goldsmith Wants To Print The Entire Internet

[23] Cnet – Artist wants to print out entire Internet to honor Aaron Swartz

[24] PSFK – Artist Attempts to Print Out the Entire Internet

[25] CBC News – Crowdsourced art project aims to print out entire internet

[26] TechHive – What would it take to print out the Internet?

[27] Motherboard – The Tree Cost to Print a Warehouse Worth of Internet

[28] Tumblr – Tweets About Internet Print

[29] Tumblr – Printing Out the Internet Contributors

[30] JIST – How Much of the Amazon Would it Take to Print the Internet?

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