2.10.2008

So Close Yet So Far Away

“Why talk/twitter/whatever with your long-distance Loved one when you can share some romantic chocolate with them? Announcing So Close Yet So Far Away, a Valentine's Day experiment in tele-intimacy. Tables for two: you across from your date via your laptop. Using videoconference, you two can sit face-to-face and enjoy some luscious chocolate. Together. We provide the chocolate, network connection, and romantic ambiance; you’re responsible for yourself, your partner, and your laptops.”


These words were my invitation to So Close Yet So Far Away, an experiment in tele-intimacy that I organized at UC Berkeley. And an experiment in tele-intimacy it was! Experiment in the sense that it was an initial trial; intimate because the people were few. But it was this smaller-scale setting that allowed it to be experimental. Different people engaged with different media in different ways: some used video and others purely audio; some iChatted and others videoSkyped; some videoSkyped together while sitting across the table from each another; some iChatted with one person on one laptop while videoSkyping with another person on another laptop (video-cheating?); some set their laptops screen-to-screen, allowing their tele-dates to tele-tele-date; some took photos and others video captured; some ate truffles and others ate dates. But we all sat together and communicated with each other and each other’s others. And I even landed a spot in WIRED. So although there are certainly kinks to iron out, I look forward to further exploring the potential of social tele-intimacy. In fact, I aspire to translate it into a career. Check the Facebook profile and comment below for further details...

Another hint of what this might taste like:
video

4 comments:

Stephanie Gerson | Sequoia Hax said...

Talking, twittering, videoconferencing – we all use communication technologies. But when we use them for purposes of intimacy, the communication is somehow considered colder, less real, or inferior to face-to-face. Still, we depend on these technologies to maintain long-distance relationships with those we Love. How can we explore this ambivalence? Is it these technologies are colder, less real, or inferior; or do they have their own sets of affordances that – under some circumstances – can enable intimacy? How do they re-configure our notions of close/far, here/there, real/virtual, and presence/absence? And what happens when you add super rich chocolate to videoconference, and insert it into a social venue? It is with these questions in mind that I invited people to participate in 'so close yet so far away.'

Vincent said...

Hi Stephanie,

It certainly was an interesting experience to take part as your semi-virtual stand-in significant other on the other side of the table. Thinking of how this would work in real life, chocolate, mood lighting, appropriate music etc, especially when synchronized on both sides, will certainly bring long-distance intimacy closer. Maybe the important senses that were missing are touch and smell: just sticking to the (albeit cheesy) romantic part, what would be the technological substitute for holding a person's hand or detecting his/her scent? Force-feedback gloves and a remote-controlled perfume-dispenser (along the lines of this product)?

And what about the real environment: what are the effects of sitting in a room with many people, each having a computer-date. How can you prevent the sights, sounds, and scents (good or bad) of the person next to you from interfering with your attempt at remote romance?

Good luck on your project, hope you will find a solution for all those long-distance valentines!

Vincent

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