Lauren Lee McCarthy is an artist who examines social relationships in the time of surveillance, automation, and algorithmic living. Kyle McDonald is an artist working with code. He explores the possibilities of new technologies to understand how they affect society and build alternative futures. They work both autonomously and together. For Social Turkers, she went on twenty dates with people she met on an online dating site called OkCupid. She used her phone to stream these dates online. She paid remote workers on a site called Amazon Mechanical Turk to watch, interpret what was happening and direct her on what to do or say next. These directions were communicated to her via text message and she had to perform them immediately. What if we could receive real-time feedback on our social interactions? Would third party monitors be better suited to interpret and make decisions for the parties involved? Could this make us more aware in our relationships, shift us out of normal patterns and open us to unexpected possibilities? Pplkpr (by McCarthy and McDonald) is an app that tracks, analyses and auto-manages your relationships. Using a smartwatch, pplkpr monitors your physical and emotional response to the people around you, and uses machine learning to optimise your social life accordingly. Pplkpr is an intervention that examines the implications of quantified living for relationships. It poses as a startup in order to critique the techno-solutionism of startup culture.
Us+, also by McCarthy and McDonald, is a Google Hangout video chat app that uses audio, facial expression and linguistic analysis to optimise conversations based on the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) database, and the concept of Linguistic Style Matching (LSM). The app displays a visualisation, provides pop-up notifications to each participant and takes actions (like auto-muting) when the conversation gets out of balance.