Miranda July is the creator of a new messaging slash social networking service cum public art project called Somebody. The concept? Have somebody physically near your friend personally deliver your text message. A mashup of texting and Uber-like GPS-ing and Western Union telegram.
Here at Traces, I’ve touched repeatedly on my ambivalence regarding technology (here and here and here and here and here), especially its potential for “taking the world away,” as the poet W. S. Merwin puts it, even as it holds out the (insidious? irresistible? ultimately false or at least partly false?) promise of connecting us with the world.
Here’s how Miranda July describes her app, which can be downloaded from the App Store, though for myself I think actually using Somebody is maybe not the point:
When you send your friend a message through Somebody, it goes — not to your friend — but to the Somebody user nearest your friend. This person (likely a stranger) delivers the message verbally, acting as your stand-in. The most high-tech part of Somebody is not in the phone, it’s in the users who dare to deliver a message to a stranger. Half-app / half-human, Somebody is a far-reaching public art project that incites performance and twists our love of avatars and outsourcing — every relationship becomes a three-way. The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.
This hilarious film offers three or four vignettes of people using Somebody. It gave me a good, sustained laugh. Well done, Miranda.