“Conversacube” is a small box meant to form the centerpiece of any conversation situation. The box sits in the middle of all conversants, with one face turned to each person. Each outward face of the box has a small screen and a microphone embedded just inside. As the conversation progresses, each person is personally prompted with directions or lines to keep the conversation running seamlessly with minimal awkward or uncomfortable moments. The microphones monitor audio levels of each participant and the cube responds accordingly, adjusting prompts to enliven, mediate conflict, or balance conversation as necessary. “Conversacube” is a product as art piece, complete with brand identity, web presence (see conversacube.com), video advertisements, and print collateral. The intent is to create a tool that on one hand explores the idea of an actual commercial product that uses technology to improve interactions, and on the other hand, is critical of our dependence on technology and choreographed social routines, hinting at a dystopic future where we sacrifice our autonomy to avoid having to face anything uncomfortable. The “Conversacube” asks users to consider in which of these directions we’re heading. Or is it both? Are we consciously aware of the future we’re building with all of our technological innovation? Are there ways we can use technology to expand our awareness and move toward more connected social relationships?
Lauren McCarthy is a designer, artist, and programmer, and currently an MFA student in the UCLA Design | Media Arts program. She received a BS in Computer Science and a BS in Art and Design from MIT. Her work explores the structures and systems of social interactions, identity, and self-representation. She is interested in the slightly uncomfortable moments when patterns are shifted, expectations are broken, and participants become aware of the system. Her work takes any necessary form: video, performance, software, internet art, interactive objects and environments, and media installations. As a designer and software developer, Lauren has worked at Oblong Industries in Los Angeles, creating gestural interface systems, at Small Design Firm on interactive installations for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and at Continuum and the MIT Media Lab. Her artwork has been shown in a variety of contexts, blurring the boundaries between art, design, and life, including the Conflux Festival, SIGGRAPH, LACMA, and the WIRED Store.