UPDATE: Sadly, the Somebody App was shut down on Oct. 31, 2015. From the app’s website:
Despite the ridiculous challenges, one in four messages were delivered, and an average of ten thousand people used the app every day. The next step could only be to form a real company — a start-up! — to expand and improve on our user’s dedication. Or… to choose an end date and let Somebody go out as it came in: a wild experiment in public art, marking a particular moment in time.
Metamodernism, as we’ve explored it here on this blog, shows up in popular music, in film, in clothing choices and linguistic trends, in approaches to spirituality… And now in an app??
Devised by creative powerhouse Miranda July (a major mistress of metamodern sentiment, and arguably the queen of quirky), the app named Somebody is a novel twist on communicating in the age of social media.
Here’s what Somebody does: If you have the app on your mobile device, and you want to send a message to a friend who has the app, Somebody will send that message – NOT to your intended recipient, but instead to whichever active Somebody user is geographically nearest them. This person will receive the message itself, the name and a picture of the recipient, along with location and any special instructions the sender wants to include. The intermediary’s mission, if they choose to accept it, is to then go find the recipient and present the message in person, out loud. Sound intimidating? Only until one realizes that everybody involved has signed up for the game.
Like most metamodern cultural items, Miranda July’s new app folds in some aspects from the other epistemes*. It is an advance in communications technology (ergo modern) and is also a performance-art piece that subverts prevailing notions about the value of such technology (ergo postmodern). But beyond those levels Somebody reintroduces live human connection to the digital sphere. Random strangers meet in the flesh. Human warmth in the form of a surrogate hug or a friendly smile augments ordinarily sterile device-based communication. Importantly, Somebody doesn’t do away with the digital; instead it embodies a refusal to limit oneself to it. And the name of the app itself asserts that everybody IS and deserves to HAVE (even if for a fleeting moment) “Somebody.” These themes, which run through much of Miranda July’s previous and varied work in literature, film and conceptual art are distinctly metamodern.
*To read a little bit more about our view of the progression of the epistemes (Tradition, Modernism, Postmodernism, Metamodernism), please see our inaugural post.