Texting is tacky.
Calling is awkward.
Email is old.
On August 28th Miranda July unveils a new way to communicate: Somebody—an app created with support from Miu Miu, available in the iTunes store as a free download.
When you send your friend a message through Somebody, it goes--not to your friend--but to the somebody user nearest your friend. This person (likely a stranger) delivers the message verbally, acting as your stand-in. The app launches at the Venice Film Festival along with a short companion film, part of Miu Miu's women's tales series. The film takes viewers through a few possible uses for the new messaging service, including a break up, a make-up, and a proposal of marriage--but participants will find the app serves their own unique purposes. The most high-tech part of Somebody is not in the phone, it's in the users who dare to deliver a message to stranger. "I see this as far-reaching public art project, inciting performance and conversation about the value of inefficiency and risk," says July.
Somebody works best with a critical mass of users in a given area; colleges, workplaces, parties and concerts can become somebody hotspots simply by designating themselves as one (details on somebodyapp.com). Official somebody hotspots include Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New Museum (New York), Yerba Buena Center for The Arts (San Francisco) and Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (complete list on the website)
Half-app / half-human, somebody twists our love of avatars and outsourcing—every relationship becomes a three-way. The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.
"When you can't be there … Somebody™ can."
1. Tap the mouth button to include actions and directions for your stand-in, such as crying or hug. You may also create a custom action.
2. The recipient always has the option of declining a delivery before it’s set in to motion, if now’s not a good time.
3. The first sentence of the message is automatically " Recipient's name? It's me, Sender's name " — forcing the stand-in to assume the identity of the sender.
4. Somebody™ uses GPS to locate your friend and users nearby, then presents you with photos and performance ratings so you may choose the best possible delivery person for your message.
5. If there’s no one nearby, you can choose to float your message indefinitely. Users interested in delivering messages can check floating messages and pick one to deliver. (Or just read all the messages...)