rebecca's WIP

Assignment 3: Extensions and Customization

My response to Assignment 3 (extensions and customizations) is a series of proposed provocations that explore the following question: where is the line between connection and codependence?

These ideas emerged from my own thinking and crystallized in a conversation I had with Kyle. I’m interested in this question about social boundaries from two different angles / places in my intellectual and personal life. On the one hand, a lot of my work this semester (particularly in my thesis) has revolved around this idea of creating private spaces in public.

In that process, I’ve been thinking about intimate spaces like prayer shrines, phone booths, bathroom stalls, ATM machines — objects and environments and structures in public life where we are allowed moments of privacy. But looking more closely at these structures (literally and metaphorically), I’ve realized that while we may seek privacy in the haven of a bathroom stall, we are quite literally only separated by a thin wall from the person next to us.

This idea is also inspired by my relationship with my sister, who is not only my blood relative but also my best friend and roommate. Not only do we share a tremendous amount of intimacy, closeness and history, but we also coexist socially with one another and have overlap between our friends and social groups.

We have a mutual recognition of the ways in which our closeness borders on codependence, and have worked throughout our lives to figure out the ways in which we share and are similar, and the ways in which we are different. (I also found a statistic that siblings are made up of 99.5% of the same genetic material).

Below are three mini proposed projects that revolve around ‘hacking’ my relationship with my sister, automating our intimacy / communication, and pushing the boundaries between connection and codependence.

Provocation 1: Domesticity for Two

The first provocation in this series has to do with the fact that my sister and I are roommates, so we inhabit the same domestic space as one another every day (mostly). We have separate bedrooms with doors that close but there are also many other ways we share and express intimacy with each other within that space: sharing food, sometimes sleeping in bed, borrowing clothes, etc. On the flip side, there are, of course, unspoken boundaries around things we do not do together or in the same space — go to the bathroom, have sex, get dressed, etc.

This idea is a series of domestic objects meant to be shared by two people that ask questions about the line between connection and codependence — where the boundaries between two bodies in a space begins to break down, or at least become fuzzy. I thought about different ways that we could engage in these really private activities not only together, but doing so while having to somehow manage or negotiate the presence of another person. I thought about making something like a shared toilet, but then landed on three things that felt slightly more subtle.

I created proposals for 3 codependent objects. Think a tandem bicycle or a three legged race for the home. My proposals are: a two-person tooth brush (with a shared handle, so that we would have to work together and synchronize our movements while brushing our teeth), a two-person cereal bowl (with delineated compartments for each person but where the milk is shared) and a two-person hand mirror (so that the process of getting ready and looking at oneself in the mirror also becomes a process of looking at one another).

With more time, I would prototype and possibly fabricate these objects, and perform small hacks on my everyday routines as a way to think through some more possibilities for this.

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Provocation 2: Shared Phone Number

Another provocation around this theme that I had discussed with Kyle (and planned to implement) was the idea of having a shared phone number with my sister for a set period of time.

The plan was that I would get a Twilio number, tell all of our friends to text us at that number for the given period (and warn them that they’d be texting both of us — I think?) and then we could both respond to everyone’s messages. The idea is that it would be sort of like a chat roulette, and nobody would know exactly who they were going to get as a response.

Another variation on this idea was to have a shared phone number for calling, since people can’t usually tell our voices apart.

I had planned to actually implement this idea in Twilio, since I’ve worked with their API a bunch and feel pretty comfortable with it. Unfortunately, when I proposed the idea to my sister she wasn’t totally on board so this still remains a hypothetical:


Project 3: Automated Communication

The last idea I had is around how to automate intimate communication via non-verbal signals such as facial expression. In thinking about the phone as an extension of self, and text messaging as a mode of communication that is reserved for certain kind of intimate relationships, I had the idea for a mobile phone application that uses the facial expression as the basis for automating SMS messaging communication.

I’m not sure this exact form or interaction flow (see below) is totally quite right but there are some things I wanted to gesture toward through this idea, such as telepathy and non-verbal communication. I also wanted to play on the idea of shared vocabulary and encoded communication that exists in close relationships between people.

The app would start with a selfie, so you would take a photo of yourself and then have the option to share location, feelings and thoughts.

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Inspiring projects & references

Telepathy app: (seeing in someone’s insides) (especially

Pillow talk

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