For the next seven weeks, anyone who's inclined can go to 205 Hudson Street in New York City and take over someone else's apartment. Smart devices like the kettles, lighting and speakers of four homes connect directly to laptops in the corner of an art gallery. Cameras are trained on bathrooms, kitchens and living areas. Visitors can sit down and become a human Alexa, playing music, eavesdropping on conversations through microphones and communicating with the inhabitants via text-to-speech. Each home -- three in Brooklyn, one in San Francisco -- will be "live" for two hours a day.
"I had this everyday feeling – stress about not properly articulating my emotions in my emails to people," artist and writer Joanne McNeil tells me over the phone from Boston. "I was feeling as though I had to over-do it with enthusiasm or I would sound too sarcastic or bleak or disinterested." It's a common anxiety of modern day life: in an age where we increasingly communicate via email, text messages, and social media posts instead of face-to-face, it can be hard to judge whether we are getting the tone right. Are we being too formal? Are we being too familiar?
Today, I came across "Get Lauren" an art-installation / performance by Lauren McCarthy, and that got me thinking. For her installation, Lauren has equipped a couple of real people with internet-of-things devices and has followed the participants for 24 hours for a number of days. Through the devices Lauren was able to interact with the people and their environment, setting the lights, playing music or providing information. Lauren was, in fact, a human equivalent to the Artificial Intelligence used by products like Alexa or Siri.