An Interactive Study Of Human Response To Mediated Actions Without Consequence: Naughty Or Nice?

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Installation view at The Art Institute of Boston

In our daily lives we are presented with many options at any given moment. How does society keep order? What is it, other than fear of punishment, that influences these decisions in our every interaction? Social order among a group of individuals is imposed by the state, but there is also another powerful force at work in our interrelationships, the idea that the interaction, in order to succeed, must be mutually beneficial. If one individual expects goods or services from another, they must choose to interact positively. Society indoctrinates individuals with this duty of co-operation so that the general public will benefit overall. Our project will show these decisions, when divorced from any consequence, serve another purpose: to fulfill the unconscious mind, the instinctual urges that are repressed in our daily actions. Users will inevitably chose the ‘very mean’ actions for the characters to perform because they are unable to make that choice in their real lives. This piece, and other models like it, function as an outlet for this desire. We hope to show a majority of ‘mean’ actions will be performed even when introducing discouraging factors such as showing the emotional state of the characters and previous number of mean actions. We feel acting out this virtual relationship does not encourage real life actions but instead provides a necessary outlet for this impulse.

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Installation detail at The Art Institute of Boston

The installation shows two individuals facing each other, projected life-sized on the gallery wall. The audience stands before a pedestal which features a flat-screen display and 36 arcade-style buttons. There are 18 buttons on the left pedestal, for the character (“Matt”) and 18 for the right character (“Jason”). Buttons are labeled with actions that range from very mean to very nice. When a button is pressed, the character immediately performs the action. The other character then responds to the action, based on how he is ‘feeling’. If many bad actions have been performed, the reaction may be ‘sad’ or ‘angry’, while if many nice actions have been performed then ‘happy’ or ‘okay’ might occur. Emotions are displayed on a flat-screen monitor directly in front of the audience, and show the character’s emotional state as well as the number of actions performed, the action just performed along with overall stats and the action(s) about to be performed.

Every action chosen by the audience will be collected for comparison. The actions both in the gallery and a virtual version online at www.harveylovesharvey.com will be recorded to see if there is a difference in participation sets. The gallery art audience versus the “world” online audience. The data will be collected for the duration of the cyberarts festival, from Tuesday April 19th to May 8th. The conclusion and final data will be presented online.


Click here to view the interactive website for this project.

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