The interactive piece Mobile Feelings questions how mobile communication technologies have altered our life styles and our conceptions of privacy. Mobile phones have apart from becoming the most indispensable communication device of the late 20th and early 21st century, and a cool functional fashion accessory, also tools for displaced performativity: mobile telephony has transformed ordinary people into actors who narrate their most private details on the theatrical stages of train stations, restaurants, public spaces, streets, meeting areas, and any other social gathering places.
Mobile Feelings play with the ambivalence of sharing personal information with an anonymous audience, and it reintroduces an element that in an era of virtual communication technologies is becoming increasingly obsolete: tactility. Our technologised communication is characterized by its lack of corpo-reality. We talk on our phones, sms, email without even seeing, let alone feeling our counterparts. Sommerer and Mignonneaus piece however, brings the corporeal back into our communicative domain, albeit also in a mediated fashion. Mobile Feelings lets people communicate with strangers through virtual touch and body sensations, including smell and sweat using specially designed mobile phones. Users are provided with specially equipped Mobile Feelings phone devices that resemble organic or bodily shapes. These devices host miniature bio-sensors and actuators that capture the users' heartbeat, blood volume pressure and pulse, skin conductivity, sweat and smell. All data can be sent to other anonymous users who can perceive and feel these most private sensations through actuators, vibrators, ventilators, micro- electromechanical and micro-bio-electrochemical systems which are also embedded in each device.
Mobile Feelings by Sommerer / Mignonneau (DEAF04) from V2_ on Vimeo.
Mobile Feelings devices communicate with each other through a standard mobile phone network and users can move around freely to use their devices anywhere and anytime just like normal mobile phones. Besides capturing and transmitting the various body data, the "Mobile Feelings" devices also display images of the other connected users. When a user touches her device and selects one of the displayed persons, she can receive this persons body sensations, through for example a tickle, a vibration, a small wind or humidity, a pulse, a push or a slight stroke, creating a strange and perhaps erotic ambiguity.
by Christa Sommerer (AT/JP) and Laurent Mignonneau (FR), 2004.