Kinda Human / Artifact Review - Intimate Relationships

Dates: August 2018 to October 2018
Team: Scott Dombkowski
Advisors: Stacie Rohrbach and Molly Wright Steenson
Work Type: Academic

In addition to studying the artifacts that focus on facilitating human and artificial agent relationships, I took some time to review additional artifacts, focusing on the experiences they encourage within an intimate relationship. My research includes both digital and non- digital interfaces, and contemporary and historical interfaces.

In addition to studying the artifacts that focus on facilitating human and artificial agent relationships, I took some time to review additional artifacts, focusing on the experiences they encourage within an intimate relationship. My research includes both digital and non- digital interfaces, and contemporary and historical interfaces. Historical precedents include Dr. Laura, a daily radio show, which has run for the last 30 years and offers "no-nonsense advice infused with a strong sense of ethics, accountability, and personal responsibility" (Dr. Laura Call..., n.d.). I also studied a best selling books of the nineties, John Gray's Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus which serves as "a guide for improving communication and getting what you want from your relationship" (Men Are From Mars..., n.d.). Dr. Laura and Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus serve as examples of resources that were and are still widely accessible, but not customized to a person's unique experience.

Through my research I also uncovered artifacts designed and built specifically to one's personal experience. These include the Touch Room, "an app that enables people to physically feel the presence of far-away friends and loved ones with the touch of a fingertip" (Touch Room, n.d.) and Pillow Talk, "a wristband that picks up your heartbeat and sends it, in real time, to your loved one" (Pillow Talk, n.d.). These artifacts were designed to address the issues of communication and expression in long distance relationships. At the same time, both artifacts lack the dimensionality of both in-person conversations and most digital conversations.

Other artifacts include Lasting, "the nation's No. 1 relationship counseling app" (Lasting: Marriage Health App, n.d.)that serves as your "personal marriage health program" (Lasting: Marriage Health App, n.d.), and The Boyfriend Log, "a daily app that keeps track of your love life through daily reflection and a personalized, color-coded calendar,... illuminat[ing] positive and negative patterns."(The Boyfriend Log, n.d.) Both are examples of artifacts that attempt to codify and serve as sources of understanding and reflection for an intimate couple, but fail to build an encompassing and comprehensive knowledge of that relationship.

Unlike digital artifacts, non-digital artifacts have attempted to address both expression and understanding. These include the Cuddle Mattress, a mattress that "lets you hug your better half intimately without any wrist or arm problems" (RELEX Cuddle, n.d.), Fog of Love, "a game for two players where you will create and play two vivid characters who meet, fall in love and face the challenge of making an unusual relationship work" (Fog of Love Board Game, n.d.), Monogamy, an adult game with an "emphasis... on the communication between you and your partner finding out what really turns each other on and then translating this into an erotic fantasy to remember at the end", (Monogamy Adult Couples Board Game, n.d.) and Tea and Empathy Cards, "feelings cards that can be used to exchange empathy between partners, with groups of friends, or as a solo self-care practice" (Tea & Empathy Feeling Cards, n.d.). These examples illustrate attempts at promoting expression and understanding, but none evolve with the couple (i.e., the number and contents of the cards and games do not change; once a user plays with the games or cards they decrease in their effectiveness) to consistently grow their understanding of themselves and their relationship as a whole.

Pillow Talk

Lasting

Fog of Love