ICM Final Project Proposal

I’m interested in this idea of communication debt. 

When two people communicate with each other, they begin to form a relationship. Sometimes, over the course of a relationship, there are some things that people are uncomfortable talking about. And things often get left unsaid. You start to collect this “debt.” As these debts rack up, the relationship begins to change. Sometimes too much debt racks up to the point that it holds too much weight and the relationship ends. 

This guy named Paul Grice had this idea called the cooperative principle. It states how effective communication in conversation is achieved in social situations, in that listeners and speakers must act cooperatively and mutually accept one another to be understood in a particular way.

So when things are left unsaid, the two participants understand to some extent that someone would rather not say something and in turn that signals something about the relationship.

I want to explore this debt of things left unsaid that makes a relationship too burdensome to carry on. Can we do something to repay our debts? We change, so perhaps what we wanted to signal no longer applies?

Of course, I understand that you’re not meant to keep everyone you’ve ever met in your life, but more likely than not, some of the people you have lost touch with are people that you once were especially close with. Life is lonely enough and to lose someone that you once cared about might be preventable given time to process what had happened.

So for my project, I want to take facebook messages or imessages (depending on if I can get the facebook API to work) and find conversations from people who you used to be close with but haven’t had an online conversation with in a while. I will determine closeness by the frequency of conversations within a short time period.

I will then output messages from these conversations onto the screen and change the color of the text to outline the profile picture of the person you had this conversation with. The conversation the web app chooses will be randomized if more than one conversation fits the criteria.

With this web app, I hope to raise questions like:

  • What was the purpose of my relationship with this person?
  • Why did I stop putting effort into this relationship? Do I want this person in my life?
  • Have I forgiven this person? or have I gotten their forgiveness? How do we move forward?
  • What have I learned from this relationship?

I will use node.js to connect to the Facebook API and display the data using p5.js.

Check out the deck for more details.