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Posting on “Sleep No More” tag because it seems like this app interests all of us.  This has the feeling of a very intimate Punchdrunk experience that you can have in your own home.

I can’t wait to meet Karen!!  I could certainly use some life coaching.

Here’s a link to a NY Times article about it (her).  Available on April 15th.

Blast Theory Intern - Week Two

This weeks Johns been off on a site visit to Germany luckily he left me various fun tasks to get on with in his departure.

I’ve been continuing with the safehouse videos, although I’ve stopped listening to most of them, as I’d probably go a bit loopy if I watched all 80. I do however now pick people who I think look interesting – how this is based is entirely subjective of course [ahem.] I also found Matt, Ju and Nick’s which I’ll defiantly be watching soon.  

I’ve imputed the last of the audience data and made a nifty little spreadsheet where all the data now lives. Now I get to analyse it all and make totals, percentages and pie charts. I’m a bit rusty on excel but I’m learning again fast. I’m going to eventually compile everything I’ve found out into some nifty report along with my results for the audience survey.  

We’ve been toying with the idea of what I can do while at Blast Theory that makes use of my writing. We thought about facebook posts, blogging or twitter. As they’re thinking about incorporating a blog into the future website, we couldn’t do that. It was decided that I’d make facebook posts, giving an insight into what I’m doing at Blast Theory sort of like a really, condensed version of this. A micro blog if you will, I’ll post on their Facebook page once or twice a week.

As John was away I also got to take over daylight duties in the weekly meeting. This was a slightly traumatic experience as Macs are still continuing to confuse me, and my spelling can be pretty poor at times, however once you get going its not too bad. I’ve also been finishing off compiling the research document I was working on last week. I think that’s the main tasks for week two.

The idea of doing a Yoga taster session has also been mentioned this week. Most people in the office are giving it a try so I agreed to give it a go. I’m all for it. However I’m pretty clumsy and uncoordinated so I’m sure it will be interesting (something to laugh about.)  

Storytelling, personal experience, and emotional investment. These are traits of a thoughtful piece of work, especially a video game. If there’s one thing that I love about games, it’s that they have the power to evoke real emotions and make me reflect on my choices. Furthermore, a video game that adapts to my decisions and attempts to learn about me is a game that will likely always excite me. Perhaps that’s why I’m so fascinated with Karen, the mobile game that attempts to psychologically profile you, and is currently in Kickstarter from Blast Theory.

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Imagine a world where we obtain mentors, friends, and lovers simply by installing them onto our phone. This is the concept being explored by UK based art group Blast Theory. They are a group of interactive artists that developed Karen, a fictional life-coaching app which just launched that blurs the line between computer and human relationships.

Karen is designed to be experienced over the course of a week, and consists of HD video interactions between an actress, posing as life coach, and the user. Participants begin the experience by answering personal questions that dig at the users general worldview and emotional attitudes: Do you consider yourself an optimist? Did you have a happy childhood? In addition to answering a string of personal questions, participants willingly allow Karen to closely monitor their daily phone activities. She lures you in with the promise that the more you share with her, the more she’ll reveal things to you about yourself that perhaps you never knew. The experience develops differently for each user based on the information provided to Karen. She is also programmed to gradually reveal things about her own life and cross professional boundaries. At the end of the experience, participants receive a psychological assessment and are left with a presumingly uncomfortable feeling that begs us to examine our relationship to our devices. It’s a social art experiment resembling the Turing Test, which proposes that the threshold for artificial intelligence is when we can no longer judge whether we’re interacting with a computer or a real person.

For the art community, the app is an interesting proposition in that it’s one of the first apps to provide a new stage for performance art – highly conceptual art that explores basic elements having to do with time, space, and the relationship between performers and their audience. In true meta fashion, the artists behind Karen are making a statement about the dependencies created by the role of technology in our lives, but are using that same technology to express it.

For brands, this is as a cautionary tale. The more people are willing to share their personal data (and this is especially true of Gen Z) the more the data can be used to tell a compelling story that transforms to become highly individualized and personal. At worst, the data can also be used in ways that come across manipulative and insincere.

For the rest of us, Karen seems to be mocking a larger trend – a higher reliance on apps to help us fill in the gaps of intimacy in our lives. Apps like 36 Questions, which attempts to accelerate love between people through a series of personal questions, or Talkspace Therapy, which offers counseling services by licensed therapists all done through text message are examples of technology acting as a crutch for deteriorating in-person relationships. Empathy, friendship, and intimacy are still hugely important aspects in our lives, but technology is inevitably changing the way we seek out these comforts.

Blast Theory Intern - Week one

It’s about time i actually sat down and made a post about what i’ve been doing at my intern for the last week or so, it feels like i’ve been there for well over a week already. It’s been a really good chance to get an insight into how an arts company runs and actually raised some pretty interesting questions in my mind as to what i actually want to end up doing. I originally went into it thinking that i’d like to start in a company as an arts administrator, or work in marketing, however i’m questioning this and i hope that time will help me decide some more. 

Anyway in terms of what i’m actually doing i’ve been given a few ongoing things that i’ll be doing for the three months 

  • Archiving VHS and converting them into media files - this is surprising interesting. Especially as i get to watch some of the videos. At the moment i’m doing all the safehouse videos - a series of interviews with questions around kidnap.  Really great especially as alot of it influenced their ‘98 project Kidnap which i wrote about in my dissertation. Brilliant as well because the idea of kidnapping/being trapped has cropped up in my writing before and been on my mind for a long time as a possible major theme/plot device for one of my future plays. Theres over 80 for them so i probably won’t be watching every single one, but they are fascinating. Some of the answers are beautiful. Questions include: 

’Do you like the feeling that you are being watched?

 Can kidnapping be justified as a political tool?

OK, I want you to imagine that tomorrow you will be kidnapped just after you have left the house. Where are you going?

Do you like watching people; do you like following people?' 

Check it out: http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/work_safehouse.html

And also have a look at the video about Kidnap:

http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/mov/mov_kidnap.html

  • Continuing with the last interns research into audience and getting some data collected

and then i’ve been doing other things that crop up. This week it’s been some inputting of data, and helping to do some research for a project they’re working on at the moment. I love a bit of research :) I’ve also been going to a good few meetings which i’m a big fan of. 

Now I’ve always know the company is quite technical and actually before starting the intern i’d say i wasn’t too bad at most things technical; i know roughly how to fix my computer if it breaks, set up televisions/ internet that sort of thing. Well turns out i'm actually a bit how can i say this…'technically slow’ haha. On the plus side that means i'll defiantly be leaving having learnt some more tech type things. 

I think thats enough for this week. I’m back at work tomorrow morning for the start of a brand new week :) This week i’ve got friday off for my very exciting BBC thing which i’ll try and blog about soon. Until then :)

Learning assistant in your mobile?

Blast Theory latest invention is called Karen… Karen is a life coach living in your mobile. It responds to your psychological profile and assists you in every day activities… Blast Theory through this art work aims to shift our attention and think how is our data being processed by big companies like for example Facebook, without us knowing it. 

However it makes me think… what if we had a mobile learning assistant… which is with us all the time - would that make us learn faster…?

more info on the project: http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/karen/

purchase Karen on: http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/product/karen-pledge/

Karen, an App That Knows You All Too Well


Thinking about a life coach but not ready to commit to the real thing? App stores offer lots of electronic alternatives that can be downloaded to your iPhone or Android device. There’s Success Wizard, which promises to “help you plan, focus and achieve real and lasting results.” LiveHappy, brim-full of exercises from the California psychologist who wrote “The How of Happiness.”Niggle, for people who want “a pocket sized coaching buddy on call 24/7.” And soon, from the British art group Blast Theory, an entirely different approach:Karen, a mock life-coach app that develops boundary issues and leaves its users feeling distinctly uncomfortable.

Karen is a fictional coach in a software-driven experiential art piece. Part story, part game, designed to be played over a period of days, it offers a deliberately unsettling experience that’s intended to make us question the way we bare ourselves to a digital device.

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Locative games are significant in that they can lead to transformed understandings and experiences of place and everyday life: they serve to remind us that “places are constructed by an ongoing accumulation of stories, memories and social practices;” they encourage a questioning of the “too familiar” routines of daily life; and, they expose us to “new ways of experiencing place, play and identity,” and social interaction.
— 

Rowan Wilken in “Proximity and Alienation: Narratives of City, Self, and Other in the Locative Games of Blast Theory”. Available from Blast Theory.

Just saving this quote for later.

Too much information

One of this year’s FutureEverything big announcements was the world premiere of Too Much Information, a new work by artist collective Blast Theory.

“Take a walk with us around Manchester’s winding streets and discover the secrets and hidden conversations that echo around the city”.  

Participants were equipped with headphones and a smartphone with GPS, and asked to navigate to the marked spots on the map on the smartphone. When situated physically at the marked spots on the map a history was unleashed. In this way participants could unlock private conversations all spread around Manchester’s streets. This playful interaction stood in contrast to the very intimate stories revealed in conversations between two very different groups of people: young adults and the over 60’s. The stories were located in correlation to the physical city surrounding, meaning that a story about a woman swimming naked were played when I was near the river, and a story about a young girl not knowing whether to tell her parents about her uncle’s sexual harassment or not were situated on a bridge.

As the conversations were based on interviews of Manchester citizens, my friends and I were lucky to actually meet some of the interviewed persons as well as the artists behind. The whole interviewing process ran over four weekends, and the conversations had developed to be more and more intimate, revealing very personal, sexual, and even offensive experiences. These stories were then spread in the streets. For some of the participants the developing process were way more interesting than the actual final audio walk, and many didn’t appreciate the idea of walking. In many cases the technology and interface played too big a deal, stealing the focus on the stories. But to me the audio walk and the interaction with the interface even though it sometimes brought frustration to the experience, acted as an extremely important part of the bigger story. The stories wouldn’t be the same without the city, without the mediating technologies. “Too Much Information uncovers how despite age gaps and social divides, the human condition encapsulates us all”, and this human condition is spread all over the city. The stories are not some distinct experiences; they have arisen from the floating river, and the dark corners. Information is tied to all sorts of physical spaces, and with an increasing digital layer it gets easier to locate stories. Our presence leaves traces and haunts the city, and as the project suggests these traces can be existential, dark, and even tragic. Consequently, the title of the work is ambiguous; is this too much (intimate) information for me to hear? Or, do the system gather too much (of my private) information?

First there was Siri. Then Scarlett Johansson’s voice in the movie Her. Shortly thereafter Cortana came along. And now, once funding is secured through Kickstarter, the latest and most personable m…

Our latest Future of StoryTelling blog post reveals an exciting new software program being developed by Blast Theory’s Matt Adams that uses big data to create an affable and intelligent digital companion.

You can also head over to Karen’s Kickstarter page to help Blast Theory fund this groundbreaking new technology.

BitReview

The amazing Blast Theory are presenting a new work at FutureEverything festival this May in Manchester titled ‘I’d Hide You’. The company are always pushing the frontiers of digital media in social and cultural contexts and this project sees them take to the streets armed with streaming web cameras in an interactive game of hide and seek. I’m particularly interested in this work as it has many alignments with my current project - of which I’m documenting in a private R + D blog here. From a little twitter correspondance their equipment consists of 4 rigs which each have four USB modems for broadcasting - you can see them on the bottom of the rig in this picture and a phone using a chat app so people can talk to the runners via the net.