Interventionist Communication:
Urban Tele-Presence as Social Prostheses

Kelly Dobson [ ]  

Anything you can tell me about your experiences through AgoraPhone will be greatly appreciated, and useful in the next design! Feel free to email directly, or click here to anonymously enter discussion/comments/observations/announcements about AgoraPhone, etc....

Note: The sculpture is along a pathway and I have noticed that it sometimes takes a little while before someone will stop and talk with the caller. So be advised that it may take a minute or two, but of you call out loudly enough you will draw someone over in not too long of a while.

AgoraPhone brings the privacy and ease of entry of mediated communication into a physical public space. Anonymity is key - no logs are kept and no caller identification is ever made. The system even offers voice masking if a caller wants to be unidentifiable by their own sounds. The first of the initial two main goals of this project is to offer an easily accessible way to extend one's own voice, to enable anyone calling from anywhere to freely speak about anything at all, to perhaps even help raise issues which they may otherwise not feel safe talking about. The second goal involves understanding the “architecture” of current public spaces, both physical and online, and designing the structure and interaction of a physically located audiospace project that enables and encourages citizens to easily respond, be responsible towards each other, in urban public places. Of course people are also free to use AgoraPhone to play, to satisfy curiosities, to casually converse about anything, to sing to the place...

The AgoraPhone project revolves around a public installation into which people can call from any touch-tone phone. For the first version of this project, a communication sculpture has been designed and installed along a pathway at M.I.T. through which thousands of people pass everyday. (You can see a drawing of the sculpture below.) When a person calls the AgoraPhone number, (617) 253-6237, they are first greeted by a recorded voice and told a little bit about AgoraPhone, including their options for voice masking. When the caller chooses to connect to the remote public site, they press "#" on their phone. A full duplex audio link is opened up between the caller and those near the tele-presence sculpture via existing telephone infrastructures. The caller now may speak out of the physical sculpture while hearing what is taking place and being said near the sculpture. People in the public space can talk with the remote caller by talking into the sculpture.

Special thanks to Matt Brown.

If you are curoious about how it works technically, check out the diagram below.

The AgoraPhone project, besides mainly being alot of fun and hopefully useful, intends to call into consideration the developments of mediated communication tools and the coincident shifts both in perceptions of what constitutes social space and the changes in the experience of physical public place.