November 23, 2008
Living in a networked world–Failure to connect
Yesterday I opened a ‘floating art gallery’ in the middle of my city. I took with me my bluetooth enabled phone loaded up with miniature jpg versions of previous 52 Acts art works, a note pad and a pencil.
The idea was to find a central location, sit myself down, start beaming out images to other visible bluetooth devices, and see if I could interest any networked city dwellers in some free random art.
This works kind of like an SMS, I select the image, then choose ‘send message via bluetooth’ from the options menu, search for compatible devices, choose one and send.
I changed the name of my phone so that when I tried to connect with someone their phone would beep and they would get a message asking if they would like to receive a file from ‘floating art gallery’, like this:
The receiver could then choose to accept the transfer or decline. If they accepted the data would be sent and they would receive a piece of art either in their SMS inbox, or, if they were using a computer, to where ever they stored downloads.
It was an interesting experiment, I found that at first I found my self really nervous about making that connection–would I be able to connect with people? If I did would they be annoyed? Angry? Confused? Amused?–and I really had to psych myself into the first few attempts. I considered that perhaps this fear was fueled by the terrorist-suspicion culture that we are currently a part of, I think we have a tendency to expect malice where before we might expect playfulness. Or perhaps it is a general suspicion towards technology. Of course it would also be that my concerns about the possible reactions of others were not accurate to begin with.
In the end it seemed others were indeed as scared to connect as I was, of 60 attempts I made at sending out images only two accepted and chose to download the art from the floating art gallery–and at the last minute both of those connections then failed (either because the receivers changed their minds, or they moved out of range before the download finished, it was impossible for me to tell at my end the reult was the same, ‘connection failed’).
It seems to me there is some kind of metaphor in there for our wired world. Communication devices everywhere promising to make our world a little closer, and yet, I experienced a complete failure to connect.