When looking at Steve Lambert's piece "I Will Talk With Anyone", I became really interested in the specific, sometimes subconscious, intentions we have when wanting to talk with someone. Why do we approach someone who is open to listening and how does that fulfill something we need?
Through a series of conversations, with a wide group of people, I began to narrow down some core "simple needs" that we seek out when approaching someone who will listen and talk with us, and how sometimes we just need a small hit of attention to those simple needs to get us through a particular moment. With that I set out to play with bringing those reasons and needs more explicitly to the forefront and provide a space for intentional conversations around them.
A website with options of different needs + A live chat on a selected need
To quickly prototype and create a space that could easily provide multiple conversation options and have a fairly strong live chat, I combined and tweaked two platforms.
I started with a Squarespace template to quickly get the content web ready and customized it with some CSS and HTML. To have a live chat that would give me the information I needed on the user, handle multiple conversations, and was easily customizable, I used the chat service Olark, which I then embedded in the Squarespace site.
To get people to the piece I used Facebook. On my personal page I shared a link to the site along with the hour when operators would start being available to chat. I also contacted two other people who are not in my Facebook network and had them push it on their pages as well. From just those three posts the piece was shared quickly to a wide range of people, who continued to spread it.
Starting at 1 PM I sat at my computer, opened the live chat, and began having conversations focused on peoples needs in that moment. I continued to talk with people for the next six and a half hours, trying to focus on providing a very present and real conversation with each person who needed something. A large part of making this tool work relied on playing with identity through anonymity and pseudonymity.
I had huge assortment of conversations.
In the End
I still need to unpack exactly what it was like to have so many types of conversations with so many types of people. After opening the piece for over six hours I was pretty drained and needed to step back for a bit, but here are some basic takeaways.
I talked with a total of 40 people in six and a half hours, about everything from finding them a song to get them through their work, to deeply discussing the societal constructs of love.
I found a that our need for a quick conversational outlet was even larger than I thought.
That playing with different levels of anonymity and pseudonymity opened up different avenues for conversation.