“RealSnailMail [RSM]” by Isley and Smith

  • ©Vicky Isley and Paul Smith




    RealSnailMail [RSM]



    RSM, a research project developed by Vicky Isley and Paul Smith (aka boredomresearch), is the world’s first use of live snails to carry electronic messages across physical space. boredomresearch aim to premiere the world’s first web-mail service to use live snails for carrying electronic messages across physical space. Visitors to the Slow Art exhibition can access the realsnailmail.net web site and send email messages. Each message travels at the speed of light to the realsnailmail.net server, where it enters a queue. It waits there until a real snail in the tank at Bournemouth University wanders within range of a hot spot. The hot spot is the dispatch centre in the form of an RFID reader. This reader identifies the snail from the RFID chip attached to its shell and checks that it has not already been assigned a message to carry.

    If the snail is available, it is assigned the message at the top of the list, then slips away into the technological wasteland. Located at the other end of the tank is the drop-off point. When, or if, the snail ever makes it there, it is identified by another reader, which then forwards the relevant message to the recipient’s email address, once again at the speed of light. At each stage of the message’s transit, the sender is updated with its progress, and when it finally arrives at its destination, it is appended with details of its carrier and a log of its journey. The realsnailmail.net web site encourages users to consider the efforts of a diminutive mollusc lugging their messages across a tank, and for this reason urges them to send a message of value. During SIGGRAPH 2008, a SnailCam shows live video of the snails in action.

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