My work, “Free conversations”, was heavily inspired by the popular intervention piece “Free Hugs” and a piece called “Free listening” that I saw while visiting a friend at MIT. The goal of my piece was ultimately to have a conversation with a stranger, to produce a normal social interaction in a strange way. This goal has been achieved by both the “Free Hugs” and “Free listening” works, in which a sign is used to do such, with the normal social interactions being hugs and listening respectively. I took this concept, and expanded it to a different interaction: conversations. Conversations in general are a good way to engage and learn more about other people, and thus the “Free conversations” game was born. The format of the idea followed that of its predecessors, consisting of primarily just a sign with writing advertising the “product” being distributed. In addition, I’d say there was a little bit of influence from the Jejune institute which we studied in class. The Jejune institute was an ARG in which players encountered and took part in these strange public displays, such as the protest against Octavio and the phone dance scene. Both of these parts of these games are intended to encourage playfulness in the public arena while also providing an entertaining scene for those watching. Ultimately, “Free conversation” also acted as a bit of a spectacle, since the “free social interactions” concept has become quite popular, and thus people will get some entertainment out of it. The concept of someone walking around with a sign is in itself funny, and ultimately it did entertain people. Many people who didn’t directly engage in conversation with me, engaged either by taking pictures or just laughing at the sign. Interestingly, we talked in class a bit about how interventions could be used to entertain someone going about a menial process, such as waiting in a line. Ultimately we decided that rather than just standing around with the sign, we would walk with it, which played into this concept as many people who decided to engage in a conversation were just walking to or from a club meeting, and seeing a guy with a “free conversations” I’d like to think made their day.
The poster I made for the intervention:
Me, at the start of the intervention, standing in Curry with the sign, waiting for my first customer:
My first customer, we had a nice conversation about politics, though we both didn’t really know that much about politics. We mainly discussed the impeachment process and we both agreed that we weren’t fans of Trump:
My second customer, Hannah, who I knew from NUTV. She saw me with the sign and decided to come over and talk. We conversed about Thanksgiving and food in general as she was on her way to eat dinner. She told me her favorite Thanksgiving food is cranberries:
My third customer, he was on his way over to play the fourth floor to play pool with one of his friends, but saw me and wanted to stop by and talk. Before he came up to me, he had been working on some complex probability homework as a part of his engineering major:
This girl came up to me to take a picture of the sign. I asked her if she wanted to have a free conversation, but she told me she couldn’t because she was running late for a club meeting:
My next customer and I had a lovely conversation about Kanye, who I don’t really know that much about, except that he has a new line of really weird merch which people have been talking about. I asked him his opinions on it, and he told me he would only wearing clothing if it looked good, not if it was a special brand:
We had a brief conversation since the guy came up to me to talk, but the girl yelled at him because they were having a conversation. It was pretty funny:
In this picture, I’m talking with my next customer named Katherine, who saw me and really wanted to chat. We talked a bit because she was running late for a club meeting as well. She mentioned that she had seen a lot of similar interventions in like NYC (like Free Hugs), but that they weren’t that good, so she was happy to see something similar here in Boston:
These three guys were promoting something for a club, and when they saw me, they wanted to talk about making bread by hand, which was very random yet very interesting.
These two guys were in Marino and they were skate boarding by. The guy on the right asked me if I knew how to skateboard, and I told him I didn’t, but that it was interesting. He said he didn’t want to talk if it wasn’t about skateboarding, so he told me he’d be willing to teach me, and I gave him my Instagram. It was very odd.
My final client was a student named Christian who’s from my hometown and is really close with my brother, but I hadn’t seen him while at Northeastern. So we had a brief conversation in Blackman, catching up on everything.