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Share Your Life with a Stranger… for 20 Days

Anonymity is hot at the moment, with Secret gaining followers while anonymity fails — like Snapchat’s recent troubles — make front page news. As always, the key to catching a trend wave is to work the interstices and margins — to find the subtleties that will result in something new.

With a particular storytelling flair, MIT Media Lab’s Playful Systems Group appears to have done that with a new app, 20 Day Stranger. Currently seeking beta testers, the app tells a personal story that places you in your own version of films like Hank and Asha or even The Double Life of Veronique. Briefly, you are paired with a similarly smart-phone-enabled stranger across the globe and, for almost three weeks, share with him or her the feeds of your lives — where you go, what you see, your life rhythms. And, it’s anonymous.

About those feeds, Mark Wilson at Fast Company has more:

The team settled on a news feed that was both highly specific and vague at the same time. The software uses the iPhone’s sensors to collect very exact information. It knows for instance, when you wake, by the shaking of your phone in the morning, or whether you’re walking or driving by the speed of your GPS.

But this highly specific data is generalized to your stranger-partner to reduce stereotyping and pique interest. If you’re walking in Paris, the app will tell your partner that you’re walking and then will accompany it with Google Street View data pulled from a half-mile radius. Perhaps your “friend” will recognize Paris’s architecture, and perhaps he or she will not.

“We’re not trying to tell a story with 100% accuracy,” Slavin says. “What we’re trying to do is lift out a story with enough texture and detail to provoke you to imagine a real life somewhere else, happening right now, tied to yours.”

Visit 20 Day Stranger to sign up for the beta.

20 Day Stranger from Playful Systems on Vimeo.

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