Unpredictable, undocumented, fleeting interactions with strangers
August 29, 2014 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Somebody: A new app by Miranda July (previously) allows you to send somebody a message… sort of. 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. Watch the Somebody movie.
posted by Cash4Lead (50 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like it's pretty buggy.
posted by michaelh at 8:15 AM on August 29, 2014


I'll compose the messages on Tom Hanks's Hanx Writer.
posted by Iridic at 8:16 AM on August 29, 2014


Creepr
posted by jayder at 8:16 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


If 90 percent of the messages sent over Somebody do not contain the word "herpes," I will be amazed.
posted by Etrigan at 8:16 AM on August 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


What
posted by Melismata at 8:18 AM on August 29, 2014


Miranda July seems to inhabit a much more pleasant and safer world than most people. I bet it's nice.
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 AM on August 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


That just sounds so...intentionally dumb. Why would anyone want to do that, pranks aside?
posted by Omnomnom at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2014


Miranda July sprinkles more of her magic and whimsy on the world.
posted by Flashman at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Since the main users of the app will be people just like Ms. July, I don't see any reasons for fuss.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Bah, iPhone only. And it's such a tiny and simple app - most of the work is in the back-end.

As I programmer, if I started to write a mobile app it's not even clear what framework I could use that would not support Android.

I guess they're just not interested in messages from strange people who happen to be poor.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:30 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think most of the above comments are treating this like a real app. This is an art piece/project.

And a pretty cool one at that!
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:34 AM on August 29, 2014 [12 favorites]


Consider my head whimsically scratched.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:35 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Finally, the app that no one was asking for.
posted by emjaybee at 8:36 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, a lot of July's work explores childishness in a way that makes adults very uncomfortable cause it's very realistically a child's viewpoint -, naive, questioning, built on false assumptions, etc rather than the idealized innocent childishness we normally see. This seems to fit into previous work about that.
posted by The Whelk at 8:39 AM on August 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Sounds like she's trying to inch us closer to Maneki Neko.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:41 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


The app sends the message not directly to the recipient but to a robot that will typewrite the message, which will then be removed by a human intern, sealed in an envelope and posted via pony express to the nearest steam-powered train on which it will travel on the transnational rail system to a nearby post office. A local pigeon courier will then deliver the message to the nearest person within six degrees of Kevin Bacon separation from the recipient who will then hopefully fortuitously drop the message someplace where the recipient will pick it up and read it to a room full of randomly assembled listeners who will in turn surmise the message was in fact intended for the reader.
posted by ChuckRamone at 8:44 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Manicpixiedreamr
posted by clockzero at 9:03 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yay another really creepy privacy invasion app! Sign up all your friends! Just give us their names, locations and a photo of what they look like and we'll supply that information to complete stragers so they can definitely only ever use it for its "intended" purpose!
posted by Poldo at 9:06 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


What could go wrong?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:06 AM on August 29, 2014


Miranda July is essentially Zooey Deschanel for people with cultural-studies degrees, right?
posted by acb at 9:09 AM on August 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


The app sends your message not to the recipient but to one of our hyperintelligent AIs, who will construct a simulation space wherein a virtual version of the recipient receives the message. The AI will then repeatedly model the mindstate of the recipient over the next 10-100 years as specified by the user until it has generated a density of likely responses. If the probability of a desired response (happiness, dismay, request for intromission, etc) meets or exceeds a user-specified criterion, the AI will then deliver the message.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


request for intromission

I had never encountered the word "intromission" before, so I looked it up. I was not expecting the definition I received.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:23 AM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


The app sends your message not to the recipient but to one of our hyperintelligent AIs, who will construct a simulation space wherein a virtual version of the recipient is forced to read aloud and re-read aloud and re-re-read aloud the message until the end of time*.

-------
*Or the end of the exhibit, whichever comes first.
posted by notyou at 9:24 AM on August 29, 2014


Yay another really creepy privacy invasion app! Sign up all your friends! Just give us their names, locations and a photo of what they look like and we'll supply that information to complete stragers so they can definitely only ever use it for its "intended" purpose!

From the FAQ: "You can send a message to anyone in your contacts list who has also signed up with Somebody."
posted by muddgirl at 9:28 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also: What if I don't want to deliver/receive messages?

"You can update your settings to Do Not Receive if you’re unavailable for messages."

Seems pretty opt-in to me.
posted by muddgirl at 9:33 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


All you bitter dour naysayers realize that this is performance art not a business plan right?
posted by aspo at 9:42 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


All you bitter dour naysayers realize that this is performance art not a business plan right?

I'm sorry, I refuse to acknowledge this comment until it is read by somebody near me and they convey its content to me using interpretive dance. Until such time I will continue to shout at the latest THE INTERNET IS ENDING THE WORLD cloud.
posted by yoink at 9:55 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is going to make sexting 1000% more awkward.
posted by xingcat at 10:14 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Amanda Huginkiss! I'm looking for Amanda Huginkiss--I have a message for ya from Ben Dover!"
posted by gottabefunky at 10:21 AM on August 29, 2014


I guess they're just not interested in messages from strange people who happen to be poor.

Unless there's some evidence that the developers deliberately opted for iPhone-only support in order to further marginalize poor people by depriving them of this app, can we not do this? (I mean, do you see how absurd that is when you spell it out?)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:24 AM on August 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


What it needs is dogs. Dogs should receive the message, walk to your door, and scratch and whine until you let them in.

As dogs can't read street signs or house numbers, then some sort of harness-mounted device that provided guidance would be needed, along with some specific training, but neither seems insuperable.

The basic process could then be scaled to deliver packages. I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon's hype around drone deliveries was really a smokescreen for their real research work on canine carriers.

Cats would be cooler, but impracticable. Larger animals - horses, elephants, perhaps llamas - could be used for larger items, but obviously couldn't fit through your door.
posted by Devonian at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Monkeys, then?
posted by goethean at 10:38 AM on August 29, 2014


People. Watch the movie.
posted by gwint at 10:48 AM on August 29, 2014


People. Watch the movie.

Or you could watch it for me and tell me about it.
posted by yoink at 10:49 AM on August 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Justifiably or not, the first thing this reminds me of is Fallen. (Spoilers follow for a movie that's old enough to drive.)

There's at least one scene where the antagonist (a body-hopping demon) speaks to Denzel Washington's character through a series of colleagues and passersby, jumping from one body to the next as they brush past each other. I can imagine this creating a similar effect.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 10:55 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]




All you bitter dour naysayers realize that this is performance art not a business plan right?

Even the phrase "performance art" has a breaking point. If it were a donkey, you would be seriously mistreating the poor thing at this point, viz., there is no specific performance involved here, and this is clearly an app (which, I guess, could be art, but only in the kind of tiresome postmodern sense). "Performance art"'s poor little legs are buckling under the weight.
posted by clockzero at 12:10 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


To me the performance is the encounters that the app facilitates. Like, an app can't be a car service but Uber is still a car service that uses an app. An app isn't necessarily performance art but this is performance art that uses an app.
posted by muddgirl at 12:28 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


WrongNumbr
posted by Pudhoho at 12:30 PM on August 29, 2014


I mean, just reading the website, Ms. July pretty clearly states that the app can't function without a critical mass of people who have the app installed and are looking to use it. She calls these "Hotspots" and has some pre-arranged:
The Venice Film Festival
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The New Museum
Yerba Buena Center for The Arts
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
The Walker Art Center
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Museo Jumex
To use some more millenial buzzwords, it's crowdsourced performance.
posted by muddgirl at 12:31 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Pffft. Miranda July is so last month.
posted by yoink at 12:38 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I actually found the concept whimsical and pretty fun. The movie was silly (and that plant scenario was a bit much), but my takeaway is that the goal isn't really to deliver the message. I mean it is, but it's more about two strangers sharing a somewhat personal exchange from the get-go. And, likely, the resulting conversation after the message is delivered.

All parties have to opt-in to this thing, including both the message sender and the message recipient. The recipient also has the chance to say whether or not now is a good time to receive the message. So it's a little less creepy in that it's expected.

Just tried to pass along a message over my lunch break (but was unsuccessful). The message was something like: "I miss you! [And then angrily]: Where have you been?!"

It was downtown Chicago, so I got an intersection - but tried popping in to a few shops in the area, with no luck. I did go up to a few people, asking if they were "Kay." I'll admit it did feel a little weird, but I found it fun. And will definitely give this a go again.
posted by avoision at 1:16 PM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


To me the performance is the encounters that the app facilitates. Like, an app can't be a car service but Uber is still a car service that uses an app. An app isn't necessarily performance art but this is performance art that uses an app...To use some more millenial buzzwords, it's crowdsourced performance.

Yeah, I can see that. I didn't mean that it wasn't performance art because it's not good or pure enough to be performance art, but because the interactions this would foster wouldn't obviously be any more or less performative than much of human interactions already are, and the "art" of it is indistinguishable from any other app. So I was thinking that it's basically just an app with an artist's name and a whole lot of gratuitous cultural capital attached to it.
posted by clockzero at 1:49 PM on August 29, 2014


the interactions this would foster wouldn't obviously be any more or less performative than much of human interactions already are

Well, there's a script involved in one side of these interactions, with performance directions if desired. That definitely takes it into a performance realm for me.

and the "art" of it is indistinguishable from any other app

I don't want to take this down a "What is art?" direction, but to me the "art" is the facilitation of interaction that would otherwise not happen, not merely in the mechanics of the app. The app is a bit irrelevant - this could be arranged through the postal system, or a traditional website, or over telephone or cellular networks. An app tied to Apple Contacts certainly makes it easier, but focusing on the app itself sort of misses the point.
posted by muddgirl at 2:01 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love Miranda July!!
posted by spbmp at 3:30 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Finally, the app that no one was asking for.

Finally? Oh, that's right, the people were clamoring for something as necessary as Yo. (Add all other "apps to solve non problems and/or deliver shit here.)

Also, Miranda July can do no wrong in my book because she created Me And You And Everyone We Know.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:06 PM on August 29, 2014


To me the point of good art is to move me emotionally when I feel shut down. Her Somebody piece moved me close to tears. The thought of allowing a stranger into a fleeting moment of my real life is somewhat appealing. But then, humanity hinges on shared real moments. And I like humans.
posted by Emor at 10:20 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I had never encountered the word "intromission" before, so I looked it up. I was not expecting the definition I received.

But surely you expect that a fair number of people send other people messages in the hope that the recipient will state "Take me now, subcreature."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:21 PM on August 29, 2014


There's already an app for people who have lost every bit of child-like wonder. It's called Metafilter.
posted by the jam at 2:19 PM on August 30, 2014


child-like wonder? All this hugging and emoting at and kissing of strangers made me shudder. It's maybe interesting as art, though not my thing, but I can't understand what makes people like this thing. What's naively awesome about it? (Not a rhetorical question, I'm interested.)
posted by Omnomnom at 2:26 PM on August 30, 2014


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