Technology gets blamed for antisocial behavior, everyone staring at their phones, sucked into their own online worlds.
A quirky messaging app called Somebody (www.somebodyapp.com) by performer/filmmaker Miranda July aims for the opposite.
On Somebody, users post a message and bank on the kindness and courage of strangers to have it delivered in person. Imagine users performing your text messages as a monologue, complete with emotions and actions as indicated in the note.
Odd and inefficient, but also an interesting concept. Of course, July, who will be performing this month at the Walker Art Center — a Somebody “hot spot” — made a short film about it.
“I hoped it would simply be a way out, a portal that leads from one’s phone to the real world,” she said. “You can’t use the app to deliver a message without looking up, looking around, seeing who is out there right around you.”
What’s with the “hot spot” at the Walker?
Well, the app only works when you’ve got a critical mass of users in the same area. The idea is that museum-goers use it while wandering among the art.
When the app works, it takes “the casualness of text messaging and e-mailing people and almost turns it into a ritualized performance experience,” said Andrea Brown, associate director of digital marketing and e-commerce at Walker.
There are other Somebody hot spots at museums in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Mexico City.
“I always go to museums with a sense of expectation, I dress up and assume that I will meet someone new and exciting,” July said. “Usually this doesn’t happen, but with Somebody your chances are much higher.”
Brown mostly uses the app for little inside jokes among friends — stuff that’s generally unimportant if it never gets delivered. But it has produced some surprises, like the time two strangers stopped by her Minneapolis apartment building to deliver a message that one of her friends had posted on the app. (The geolocation feature of the app had led them to the vicinity of her apartment, and then they contacted her within the app to see if she was available for a delivery.)
“They seemed to be on a scavenger hunt for the day, riding around on their bikes and delivering messages to people,” Brown said.
She chatted briefly with the pair — a man and woman in their 20s — and then they were on their way.
“In terms of a pure technology experience, the app is not without its quirks,” Brown said. “It’s definitely more interesting conceptually, and when you get it to work, it’s a happy occurrence.”
And a chance to meet somebody.
Read more on the blog: startribune.com/alwayson