ISSN 2011-0146

socially nervous

publicado en arte,crítica,interacción,programación,web por mga en March 18, 2011

–Texto en inglés como parte de mi estudio en Carnegie Mellon University. Eventualmente haré una versión en español.–

Social network services[1] enable people to communicate with each other in ways that would be considered science fiction only a few years ago. This enablement has been welcome by people at large, with some criticisms concerning personal privacy and how well (or not) the networks they model reflect real life (offline) relationships. socially nervous is a commentary on how these services have affected our way we perceive these relationships.

The object

An electronic “pet” with movement and audiovisual actuation capabilities. The pet will communicate wirelessly with a host computer which in turn will receive information from the owner’s personal “identities” in two social network services: Facebook and Twitter. Only incoming information to these profiles will be taken into account (information generated by the user’s “friends”).

This information will be manifested physically by the pet’s behavior (movement, sound, light). As information is accumulated by the pet manifestations become more intense and erratic. As soon as someone touches the pet, it “forgets” any information stored and “sleeps”. The process begins again as soon as physical contact is lost.

 The pet’s shape is informed by the awkwardness inherent in the process of virtual socialization. The object could easily be a teddy bear or some other more familiar shape which would make the observer want to interact with it. Instead, I decided to create a non-familiar, even agressive, shape with sharp edges and non-symmetrical. An observer would notice an erratically-behaving object wandering about in response to virtual interactions. By touching it, the user “calms” the pet; physical interaction “defeats” virtual interaction.

Behavior states
Any information received by the pet will provoke behaviors in any of these types: physical, visual, auditive.
The stimulus is always represented in the 5×7 matrix as an icon followed by the username/alias of the person who provoked it. Below is a table of the different stimuli the pet receives along with the type of behavior it provokes:

Stimulus Icon Vibration Movement Lights Auditive
New tweet ? x
New follow ? x x x
New mention ! x x x
New direct message ? x x
Tagged in a photo [ . ] x x
Tagged in a video > x x
Being touched ?

A video of the behaviors working (indirect stimulus received via Bluetooth from a computer not in video). Initial/passive message was later changed to “please hug me”:

Part list

I used 3mm laser-cut acrylic for the box (Sketchup 3D file).

A Processing-based visual interface will be developed to manage Facebook and Twitter profile settings.

The Processing code uses random stimuli to show all possible behavior states. Modifications must be made in order to accomodate a particular social network service user. The Wiring code is quite elaborate (~2k lines of code) but you are welcome to look into it.

This project was done as part of the requirements to complete the Fall 2010 Making Things Interact course with Professor Mark Gross in Carnegie Mellon University.