Parallel Conversation Table
2009 March 15, overheard somewhere deep within Bruno’s Bellybutton:
BB1: What are we going to make? How are we going to make it?
BB2: I have an idea… let’s wire a dinner table where people sit down normally but can send each other secret messages, kind of like kicking someone or putting your hand on someone’s thigh under the table while still maintaining good table etiquette…
BB1: Can we also send electric shocks to people who talk too much/we don’t like?
BB3: I heart this idea.
BB2: Yes… and an ‘eject’ button.
BB1: And a speaker that makes it sound like someone across the table farted.
BB2: Critical Information Studies / Design-Oriented Research Final Project: “Breaking Bread… and Wind”
BB1: “Breaking Bread, Wind and Hearts” It could be used to tell dates that it isn’t working, while you go to the washroom or make your escape.
BB3: A “Bad Date” escape device? Cha-ching!
Phillips (2009) describes identity and social relations as “performances” negotiated in social settings and recalls Goffman’s (1959) metaphors of ‘front stage’ and ‘back stage’ as the means by which we selectively reveal ourselves to those around us. At a sit-down dinner party, conversation above the table, characterized by self-conscious words, careful etiquette, as well as generously-filled wine glasses is ‘front stage.’ Yet beneath the table, an entirely different, surreptitious ‘back stage’ conversation is carried out – literally, a subtext to the formal social occasion. Perhaps information technology can act to mediate these parallel conversations, or better yet, bring them to new and wonderful heights of extreme discomfort.