S O N D E R
For the final project of this semester + the first year, my group consisting of Ying Hui, Si Hui, Niki, May Thu and myself came up with an interactive experience based on the term “sonder”.
the realisation that every stranger has a life as complex and vivid as yours, connected to thousands of others whom you will never know either, and will only exist as a blur in the backdrop of your own life
The final description of our concept:
Held in the setting of 2 different trains, the idea was that both trains were site-specific to itself as a location in Singapore. This referenced the idea of strangers that co-exist within the same space during their journey from one point to another but never getting to know each other as another human being like yourself. Inviting 2 strangers to participant in the project; each will start off at different stations on different lines, making their way to a point of intersection, which was Bugis in our case.
Taking on the persona of the line they are on, East-west line (aka EW line) and downtown line, both participants who are anonymous to each other will converse over chat, with the use fo telegram, to get to know each other. They have the option to be whoever they want to be online, whether it be themselves or an altered character. During this journey to the ‘final station’, players will learn more about each other, and through their conversations were told to draw a portrait of what they thought the other person may look like. In the case of any awkwardness in the conversation whereby they are stuck in the conversation, the breadbot (existing in the same chat as the participants) will pose questions to keep the conversation going.
Nearing the end station, both participants will be asked if they would like to meet the person they have been chatting with. With their replies texted to the breadbot in private chat, the outcome of their answers will be revealed to them in the common chat. If both parties agreed to meet one another, they will then find their way to each other upon alighting at Bugis station. From then, they will exchange portraits and get to meet the online personality that had been talking to, a stranger, that they would’ve never met 😀 (or maybe, a friend coincidentally) You never know who the person you were talking to may end up being.
Pre-official run preparation:
Regarding the players in our game, we initially wanted to invite complete strangers at the moment in time on different trains. But upon consideration, we realized that it would be a challenge to look for strangers that are willing to be filmed, are alighting at Bugis and is willing to be interviewed after (aka spend extra time with us). So instead of spending time on the actual day sourcing for participants, we decided that one of the players would be someone within our team, while the other player would be one of our friends. With this arrangement, not only will there be some level of control, both players are still considered strangers to one another.
As for the breadbot, we prepared a bot script; including an introduction, stating the purpose of the breadbot, simple instructions to the game as well as a list of guiding questions to prompt the players whenever necessary.
Our individual roles on the day itself were to facilitate and film the game on two separate trains. We split ourselves up into two teams for filming and lending of our phones to the players (where our contacts were changed for anonymity). On both days, I took on the role of the breadbot whereby I would facilitate the conversation from the start (introduction) to end (portrait drawing and meeting up). We ended up doing two runs of the game in order to stronger portray our concept of sonder. I am glad that we did it twice because the difference between both outcomes really allowed for a comparison between the interaction of various personalities online and offline. Both runs and meeting experiences are captured and included in our video 😀
Diving slightly deeper into my own experience as the breadbot, it was a really interesting experience considering the conversation from both days were so different.
Day 1: Didn’t prompt any questions mid-conversation
Both players on day 1 could hold their conversation as they both asked questions to each other and found similar topics of discussion. Over chat, they were equally as involved in the conversation.
Day 2: Prompted multiple questions mid-conversation
One of the main differences that I noticed from day 1 was that Niki’s friend, Cheng, started off the conversation by asking the breadbot to help break the ice. Since their conversation started with a breadbot question, I felt that it affected the rest of it. After they answered each question, I felt that I needed to prompt another one because they weren’t sure where to divert it to. One of the reasons may be that the subjects of the questions did not allow for further expansion.
Arriving at our final concept was actually what I felt like was our main struggle throughout this project. Our initial “runner+chaser” game that was located within Bugis street turned out to be too complicated and didn’t seem to have a final goal/accomplishment. I was glad that we did a test run, whereby we realized that it didn’t carry a strong concept. However here is a compilation by Niki of some footage from the test run:
Moving on from this initial plan, we went back to some of the ideas that we started off this project with and decided to stick with an interactive game that revolved around the intimacy between two individuals. From there, we arrived at using two trains as our site-specific location.
Some challenges that we faced during our actual runs was that the limitations of time, screen recordings and possibly the presence of the breadbot may have influenced the online relationship between both participants. It could have affected the level of connection/deepness of their conversation. It was also a challenge filming in the MRT due to the crowds but our camera women did a great job :))
An unexpected element was noticed after watching the screen recordings. We realized that the players would delete what they initially wanted to say, which I guess is the perk of conversing online hehe. Another surprising element was the meeting of the players afterwards. We didn’t expect the dynamics between the players to be so different in real life compared to over chat but I guess that comes with meeting someone new for the first time. Despite the challenges that we faced throughout the project, I am pleased with our final outcome and the efforts that we put it to make it as relevant to the concepts that we touched on throughout the semester 🙂
Here is the pdf file of our presentation slides S O N D E R!