The London-based Studio Good One collective has created a series of devices that interrogate face-to-face conversation and how technology impacts on it by physically embodying our reliance on digital communication. Although we often use the word in new contexts, the basic definition of conversation hasn’t really changed. A conversation is an informal exchange of thoughts or ideas. Most importantly, though, engaging in a conversation means that you don’t say everything that there is to say. You expect the other person to make a contribution, and you intentionally leave things unsaid so that the other person has an opportunity to add their part. But with new technologies as an important driver, certain basic real life interactions like conversation are falling into disuse for large segments of society and we struggle more and more to engage with situations that are happening all around us, right now.
The “Conversation Challenger” is one of these devices. It is a machine that listens to one half of a conversation between two people, and then displays competing information on an electronic ticker-style device. The specific case study shows David and Ben the best of friends in University who haven’t seen each other for ten years. Ben gets in touch again and David must understand if Ben is worth being brought back into his personal circle. The Conversation Challenger can help him understanding how interesting Ben is because when everyone in the world is your friend, and so many things are competing for your attention, only the most interesting and meaningful relationship can and should be pursued. If David doesn’t get too distracted it means Ben is worth it.
The physical presence and distracting size of the Challenger highlights the notion of fighting with digital devices for attention. Studio Good One’s aim is to challenge us, as digital consumers and producers, to reflect on what role we want technology to play in our lives.