Posted: September 17, 2012
Original Proposal for ‘The Loveseat’:
exploring technological mediation of courtship rituals
Conceptual graphic outlining the topographical view of ‘The Loveseat’ (Rauscher 2012)
‘I love you’ … one of the most played out sayings of all time. When do I say it? Will it be received? How do I know if they love me too? I define love here, as a sensation that starts in the middle of the chest and sometimes results in red cheeks, and, somehow indicates to us that we are attracted to another person in our midst. I am not in the pursuit of answering the question ‘what is love?’ I am simply interested in how technology can be used as a prosthetic to our limited perceptive capacity to help us overcome certain classical boundaries that exist in courtship rituals.
Is it possible for us to use a device to overcome our cognitive limitations and reflexively perceive our courtship experiences, in order to determine our compatibility with a potential love interest?
When someone is approached in public by another individual who plans to express their attraction, and in essence, begin the courtship ritual, the exchange is problematic because it is an instance where the invitation and event simultaneously unfold. The person being approached did not have time to consider the invitation and it is potentially an imposition on a stranger with (an attached social contract) an expected reply. Furthermore, these advances are usually masked in small talk of some kind, which is in essence, are mini-interviews. Courtship encounters are sometimes overwhelming because they produce a mass of conflicting or complicated feelings that make our reactions somewhat disoriented and limit our ability to be rational or critical. What is the efficacy of these social performances and how do we determine if the actors are being genuine to themselves and others simultaneously?
Notably, one should either expect acceptance of the gesture, or a rejection, but the question stands, what are the conditions that would warrant acceptance or rejection? How does the stranger know if they should accept the invitation or reject it? Is there any way to assess the situation before committing to a series of social contracts that may result in a failed longer term attempt?
Suppose rejection ensues? Rejection is felt when we commit to a particular social relationship for a period of time. Notably, we can become attached for multiple reasons not necessarily relevant to the qualification of attraction. There is also a false sense of security that might be gained when entering into a ‘loving’ relationship because it is one of the primordial forces driving our actions deceive ourselves in order to obtain it. Is there a better way to mitigate the effects of rejection?
On the other hand, a relationship can evolve to love from many places but what I am interested in examining is not love, but the need for more immediate indications of reciprocal sentiment at the initiation of a courtship interaction. In our fast paced society, we do not take sufficient time to get to know the many strangers we meet. We also pass judgments on our emotionally driven responses rapidly. These two limitations alone can cause us to make poor judgments about who we choose to engage with, and who we avoid. What are the judgments that a contemporary courtship ritual would require of us, and what are the expected responses and resulting situations we could be socially coursed to accept or participate in?
Figure A: Digital Sketches: Various views and situations involving the ‘The Loveseat’ (Rauscher 2012)
I plan to build an artwork called the ‘Loveseat’. The loveseat is a piece of furniture where lovers recline – room for two. Historically or in contemporary ‘conservative’ households; a loveseat is where eager young lovers might sit when asking their families for permission to marry. In a contemporary or more ‘liberal’ family setting; a loveseat is a place where two young lovers sit to ‘make-out’. In either case, the love seat is a ‘hot-seat’ embodying the courtship ritual to one degree or another.
“The Loveseat” will consist of two semi-circle benches facing one another with a round protrusion in the center (see figure A). At least two participants can sit opposite one another and are able to augment their interaction with hidden (‘like button’) voting controls. Each bench will light up and change color, extra-sensorially or atmospherically indicating the reactions of the two participants to one another, and to anyone observing the performance. “The Loveseat” has a combination of subjective user decision and objective bio-electronic feedback readings that will be combined to render the resulting coloration effects of “The Loveseat”. The objective of the artwork is to produce an alternative device for assisting the participants performing a courtship rituals.
Figure B: Digital Sketches: Computer numerical control (CNC) scale components composites of the ‘The Loveseat’ (Rauscher 2012)
A good loveseat should be designed with three factors in mind: subjective controls, truth detection and bio-informatics compatibility assessment. The popularized ‘like’ button will be made available to each participant so that they may instantaneously accept or reject proposals they are faced with from the opposite side of “The Loveseat”.
The ‘like’ Button
The ‘like’ button is a prime example of immediacy in the acceptance of others – based on almost no response time to limited information – in our technologically mediated social networking environments such as Facebook. The ‘Loveseat’ attempts to mitigate the effects of rejection by providing a more immediate reciprocal interaction via ‘like’ buttons. Each participant can press either a ‘like’ or ‘no-like’ button that is hidden from the other participants view. The results will not be show to both parties until they both commit to a selection. Once both participants have ‘voted’ “The Loveseat” will light up atmospherically indicating their selections. This level of indication can be seen to be as ‘accurate’ as the changing colors of a mood ring, that assumes a complete assessment of an individual’s bio-physical and physiological state with a simple series of colors. However, these primitive indications are strong enough to produce an enhanced ‘sense’ of what is going on. I realize that subjective perception is heavily flawed and at best does not represent a total picture conception of any given event. Therefore, I will not be relying on the participant’s viewpoint (as via the ‘like’ button) alone – I will combine it with real physical data – as I will demonstrate below.
The literal enactment of participation can be seen as another subjective control on the part of the participants. Simply by acting or refusing to act, the participants will have gone through the preliminary selection process of deciding whether or not to sit down and commit to “The Loveseat”. Before sitting down, the two prospective lovers will already have assessed one another and decided to confirm what they perceive or risk rejection. After sitting down, they will have to decide if they want to engage in conversation or not. Furthermore, they will have to decide on committing to the ‘like’ buttons or not. Although these interactions are sure to have a unique iterations for every pair who participate; I posit that the social contract is signed the moment the participants decide to sit down because every subsequent action will indicate in one way or another the sentiments they have towards one another.
After considering the subjective controls that “The Loveseat” has, we look at the ‘truth’ detection technology that is installed. “The Loveseat” will have galvanic skin response, voice modulation detection, heart monitors, body heat and body weight detection (that varies when a participant is shifting in their seat). All of the bio-physical readings will be analyzed, in a similar way to methods of criminology, to detect the level of ‘truth’ enacted in the unfolding social performance. The ‘truth’ detection technology will be used to determine if the subjective decisions made by the participants are in fact genuine to the biophysical reactions they are having.
Finally, we have the bio-physical compatibility assessment. This measurement is taken primarily from ‘tension’ and the bodies ‘energy field’. Tension will be measured by how hard the participants press on the ‘like’ button. The body, ‘energy field’ will be bio-energetically measured via the electromagnetic forces expressed by each participants body. The resulting wave forms can be examined and each participant’s body ‘energy’ can be compared.
The Success Metric Problem
Existing mediated courtship alternatives such as dating websites use metrics of success that are limitations I would like to avoid. I will not build in any metrics of success because I do not know what the metrics of success for a long-term relationships are; I simply want to facilitate a social performance that will enhance the participants ability to determine if they should invest in a long term relationship and limit how much they physically and emotionally compromise in the process. Furthermore, I will collect the data and build a database that any other researcher can use as a resource to find patterns in the results.
It is inevitable and constructive, that during the course of any long-term relationship there will be painful experiences, and I am not attempting to remove struggle from a lasting relationship. In fact, I think that conflict, struggle and the sometimes horrible pain that ensues is productive. I am also not able to determine what motivations drive the participants to want to confirm their (love, like, lust) sentiments towards one another. Nevertheless, I am trying to socially engineer a more stable entry point to long term relationships (the original idea behind courting) by mutually (subjectively) and bio-physically answering the question ‘do you like me?’
“The Loveseat” should act as a tool of confidence that will either confirm or reject two suspecting lovers sentiments towards one another.
Furniture and Architecture
Furniture is an architectural element. Naturally the concepts of form and function permeate both fields. The concept of architectural ‘flow’ looks at controlling movement (of bodies) in a given space. “The Loveseat” also uses a type of social engineering to ‘control’ the courtship experience ‘flow’.
The most obvious and notable historical architectural structure that bares striking similarity to “The Loveseat” is the Greco-Roman coliseum. The Coliseum is a place of public performance. Indeed, anyone present at the time of the courtship performance that the participants enact in “The Loveseat” will be witness to the event. The private game that is played on the inside of “The Loveseat” is made public with the atmospheric coloration of the seat, that illuminates the inside and the outside of the artwork.
Another architectural structure with obvious visual and functional similarities is the Panopticon. Both the Panopticon and “The Loveseat” are structures for policing social behavior. The difference between the Panopticon and “The Loveseat” is that visual surveillance in the Panopticon (as performed by the prison guards) is unidirectional. Surveillance in “The Loveseat” is bidirectional (visual and bio-informatic). Both participants are able to simultaneously surveil one another’s bio-physical reactions to their social performances. “The Loveseat” is a bi-directional Panopticon that mediates social interaction with the added technological ability of spying on normally hidden bio-physical secrets.
A Note on Singular Purpose Design
It is important to note that the ‘Loveseat’ is not a device for multipurpose communication, such as a mobile phone, computer, etc. Nor is the ‘Loveseat’ a computer program that forces itself to fit within the confines of any current technology – such as a dating website with the physical and interactive limitations of a computer. “The Loveseat” is a strategically built and programmed social engineering device that is specifically designed to facilitate courtship rituals.
I want to escape the limitations of devices, such as computers and mobile phones, which can limit our experiences to the virtual. I am interested in generating, haptic and tactile augmented-reality experiences that don’t abandon the actual for the virtual, but rather enhance our perceptions of the actual.
I put forward that the combination of creative electronic biofeedback user driven controls, installed in “The Loveseat” can facilitate a strategically mediated experience assisting potential lovers in performing a safe and effective courtship ritual. I do not however, as all good technological gadgets disclaim, warrant any results.
- Solso, R. L. (2001). Cognitive psychology (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0-205-30937-2
- John Gloag, A Short Dictionary of Furniture rev. ed. 1962. (London: Allen & Unwin)
- Frederick Litchfield (2004) Illustrated History of Furniture from the Earliest to the Present Time
- The Colosseum. Harvard University Press. 2005. p. 2. ISBN 0674018958. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
- Ian Archibald Richmond, Donald Emrys Strong, Janet DeLaine. “Colosseum”, The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Ed. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth. Oxford University Press, 1998.
- Bentham, Jeremy. Panopticon (Preface). In Miran Bozovic (ed.), The Panopticon Writings, London: Verso, 1995, 29-95.
- Tom Brignall III (2002) The New Panopticon: The Internet Viewed as a Structure of Social Control, Theory & Science, ISSN: 1527-5558
- John R. Anderson (1996) The Architecture of Cognition, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (Mahwah, NJ)
- Chris L. Smith and Andrew Ballantyne (2010). Flow: architecture, object and relation. Architectural Research Quarterly, 14 , pp 21-27 doi:10.1017/S1359135510000540
- RUSSELL SPEARS and MARTIN LEA () Panacea or Panopticon? The Hidden Power in Computer-Mediated Communication, doi: 10.1177/009365094021004001
- Jeremy Bentham (1791) Panopticon or the inspection house, Volume 2, University of Lausanne
- Margaret Carlisle Duncan (1994) THE POLITICS OF WOMEN’S BODY IMAGES AND PRACTICES: FOUCAULT, THE PANOPTICON, AND SHAPE MAGAZINE doi: 10.1177/019372394018001004 Journal of Sport and Social Issues February 1994 vol. 18 no. 1 48-65
- Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1974) The Kentucky Marriage Proposal, Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1974, ISBN 0822206080, 9780822206088
- Sherry Lynn McLaughlin (2007) Lessons from the Loveseat, ML Publishing, 2007, ISBN 0976834774, 9780976834779
Possible other sources and links:
- Where Did Love Seats Get Their Name?
- Article in New Yorker about Lavalife coders
- ‘The Umbrella Project’ (Nicklin and Goff)
- Evolution of the Loveseat:
- Augmented Coliseum: Display-Based Computing for Augmented Reality Inspiration Computing Robot