Confession Devices Mirror Our Google Search Autocompleted Yearnings
A British artist explores the ways we let off steam online through touch devices
The highly personal, and at the same time completely unsecured, universe of Google’s autocomplete system suggests searches to you that are in fact the product of some distant person’s yearnings. Over time, it becomes sometimes reassuring, sometimes funny, and at other times intimidating that many people have searched for the same thing, to the point that it comes up as a suggestion when you’re searching for something else. But our connection with these little moments of contact with a collective human soul is still through the cold medium of typing, in an environment that favors rational results, not to mention financial returns.
The crudeness of the measurements, Webb indicated in an email, is intentional, leading us to think about the disconnect between our internal and external states. Sweaty skin, instead of typing fingers, confess. “The devices aren’t necessarily for confession, they’re more about the concept of physiologically connecting yourself to a network,” she wrote. “Letting your body speak for you, and in return, creating an emotional connection with strangers who you will never meet. The devices are just an alternative medium to the network.”
Webb also produced several different prototypes in search of a shape, size, and color that people could connect emotionally with. Ultimately, just making an art project about this is a stand against the increasingly manipulative tailored advertising that, in part, is enriched by such online ‘confessions.’
In this world of “Alone Together,” it’s heartening to see someone thinking seriously about the power of touch.