Karen is a life coach, a digital friend that lives in a smartphone. You can interact with her via an app which is free and can be easily downloaded from your App store. She – and the software – was designed by Blast Theory, a group of British artists who has made major innovations in the use of technology creating interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet.
From the first ‘appointment’ with Karen, you immediately understand how friendly she is with you (maybe too friendly) and how willing she is to help you work though a few things in your life. As you begin, she – the lead character, the app, the algorithm, not sure how to define her- asks you some personal questions like: “What do you value most in this moment of your life?”, “Do you think positive even if you are feeling down?”. When you answer, it soon becomes clear that she is profiling you and trying to advise you based on what you just told her. Of course, it’s up to you how open and honest to be with her. She will clearly state that she won’t lie to you and she hopes you’ll do the same.
She is in a transition moment in her life as she’s recently ended a long term relationship and sooner or later it will be your time to act as her life coach. As time passes by, she starts to know things about you that she didn’t hear from you. How is that possible? All her questions come from psychological profiling questionnaires on which the Blast theory team has worked extensively with researchers including Geraldine Nichols, Professor Nina Reynolds and Dr Kelly Page.
Users trust the app and tell Karen what she wants to know. This is what we do every day when we use social network or we agree on some terms and conditions imposed by online services, often without reading them down the line. “Data belongs to the users” explains Matt, from Blast Theory group, and ,at the end of the story, you can purchase your data (WHAT?!) for 2,99 pounds and choose to leave them anonymously to the research team or to delete them. Part of the financial support for this project came from a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, which collected almost 18thousand pounds.
In this new world where technology is ever more personalized and intrusive, we give away so much information about ourselves through our mobile phones and apps without even knowing it. This project should make us think about the privacy that we are willing to lose when we use social network.
After reading my post, will you download Karen app to discover how much personal information you are willing to share on the web? How do you see the fact that you have to buy your own data?
Where social media meets philosophy: does the enormous power of social media and its impact on users come from the inherent curiosity of people to meet with other people and form artificial communities? Or does this impact stem from a certain degree of loneliness and isolation that the modern human has imposed himself, while creating the industrial environment that will serve from now on as his home?