No. 10

Somestic Media

By : joncflint

Entrant’s location : UK


What did you create?

Somestic Media defines a trio of connected objects, retrofitting complex social media interactions within the domestic appliances from the last century. An alarm clock, a radio, and a TV, distill and encompass our mundane digisocial dilemmas, from stalking, to swipe-right and FOMO. Each device pulls, processes and displays specific data from a major social network. However, the output of each device simply reports its information, depriving the user of any two-way interactions we are accustomed to in the digital age. This enforced isolation amplifies and exposes the presumably frictionless communication processes orchestrated by complex social media algorithms. The Somestic Media suite includes: ‘LastSeen’ — an alarm clock that goes off when a person of interest comes back online on Facebook, keeping track of how long ago the target individual was last active on the platform. ‘SoulMate’ — a radio that uses text synthesis to read the profiles of potential romantic partners on Tinder out loud and includes a special “Follow Mode” that can be accessed via a key switch, giving an accurate distance to each of your existing matches. ‘BreakingViews’ — a television that displays Instagram stories from your feed and keeps track of how many times you have replayed a specific story.

Why did you make it?

Inspired by our own stories and those heard from others about their social media woes. The aim of Somestic Media is to critically render social media processes, and make them more tangible. Such exposure is vital for understanding how new technologies change the way we live and socialise, and the information we take for granted. We also wanted to convey the impact social-media has on our perception of time, distance, and priority. Whose online presence do you follow, and why? What information on dating profiles is important, apart from the profile picture? What type of content — news or views — do we prefer and why?

How did you make it?

These three devices were produced during a two month residency at the Watershed in Bristol. They remain functional prototypes with a goal to develop them into research devices people can live with, to examine the many quirks and behaviours they develop when using certain functions on Social Media platforms. All devices are fabricated from laser cut acrylic and CNC’d walnut parts with 3D printed elements. They all run on a raspberry pi and are coded in python. And use flask servers for logging into the three different social media platforms. The ‘Lastseen’ clock is designed with a shape that allows you to hide the numerical display by flipping it down, much in the same way as pulling down a notification on a phone screen would work. It uses a Facebook library called fbchat. The ‘SoulMate’  radio is designed with a large dial used to tune into find a soulmate, similar to how you might try to locate a match on tinder. And its hidden follow mode is accessed by a key switch, hinting at the almost stalker like tendencies we develop when using modern dating apps. It uses a library called pynder. Lastly the ‘BreakingViews’ TV is designed with the boxy CRT TV sets of yesteryear in mind. But the purposely wrong screen ratio reveals black bars on the side, where stories play in portrait mode like on a phone screen. It is based on the Instagram library for python with the stories add-on, and uses ‘openFrameworks’ to play the story video files.

Your entry’s specification

The three objects measure as follows: LastSeen (L180mm x W92mm x H92mm) SoulMate (L128mm x W97mm x H125mm) BreakingViews (L260mm x W97mm x H205mm) All three objects have a combined weigh of approx 4kg, and are built with: Acrylic, Walnut, 3D printed parts, Raspberry pi, LCD screens, Various displays, Speakers.