Artist Miranda July Releases Bizarre Messaging App

Yahoo Tech
August 28, 2014

Filmmaker and artist Miranda July released her own messaging app Thursday.

It’s called Somebody, and July released it at the Venice Film Festival with a short film branded by the fashion line Miu Miu.

Somebody is available for free in the iTunes Store (sorry, Android users).

Here’s how it works: You use the app to send a message to a friend, but you also need to include actions and directions for delivering the message, because it won’t be delivered electronically. Instead, the message gets picked up by a user nearby your intended recipient.

You can choose the delivery person based on her photos and the rating she has from other people who have previously elected to use that person as a courier.

The delivery person and your friend are given one another’s picture and GPS-based location so they can meet up. This delivery person, who’s likely a total stranger, will deliver your message verbally. You’ll get notified when your message is delivered. The messaging service works only if your friend is available.

If it’s not a good time to receive a message from a total stranger — or if there’s nobody available to deliver your message — your message will be “floated.” People who wish to act as messengers can browse the “floated” messages and deliver one.

It’s part social experiment, part messaging app, and part performance art.

“I see this as a far-reaching public art project, inciting performance and conversation about the value of inefficiency and risk,” July said in a press release.  

It’s no surprise that the official Somebody “hotspots” are all art-based; after all, Somebody is a self-described “public art project.”

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New Museum, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts are all among the designated hotspots, where museum attendees will be invited to use the app during their visits. 

July is best-known for her writing and directing, most famously in her 2005 movie Me and You and Everyone We Know, as well as her performance art.

For July’s 2013 performance art piece We Think Alone, July asked Kirsten Dunst, Lena Dunham, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and other friends to share private email correspondence. Subscribers received weekly email newsletters from July with the celebrities’ topical, private emails. 

July’s explanation for what makes Somebody different from other quirky messaging apps:

“The most high-tech part of the app is not in the phone, it’s in the users who dare to deliver a message to a stranger,” according to Somebody’s press release. “Half-app / half-human, Somebody twists our love of avatars and outsourcing — every relationship becomes a three-way. The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.”

Somebody likely won’t dethrone messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp, but it’s nevertheless an interesting experiment in human interaction.

You can watch July’s Miu Miu-partnered video for her Somebody app below: