This is Anna Gerber’s third and final guest blog for us. She’s been writing about delightful new storytelling projects that have caught her eye. Anna is a Special Projects Creative Director who knows a thing or two about making stories, be they digital, on paper or brickwork as co-Founder of Visual Editions and Creative Director of just launched Editions At Play.
Here’s the thing. You’re really never sure if Karen is on your side or not. Or if she’s nice. Or if you even like her. Her eyes sparkle, her smile is warm, in one trailer you even see her sitting in front of a polite mantle piece. But she can also seem a little cult-leader-like: her stare can feel intrusive, her polite mantle piece probably too polite and her questions a bit much. Her creators capture this unease with their strapline: “She’s friendly. Too friendly.”
So what or who is Karen? Karen is My Life Coach is an app. It’s an app dreamed up by Blast Theory (based in Brighton, England). Karen is a fictionalised character, she is a made up life coach that asks you (the client? patient? user?) an awful lot of questions in a series of eerily realistic life coach session environments. The app is smart. Karen is smart as she amasses data about you and your behaviour in order to know how to respond. She’s like an interactive version of a cross between the Spike Jonze film Her and the UK Channel Four TV series Humans.
The thing is Karen is not a very helpful app. She is not a tool. Karen is unlikely to support you and guide you in a way that you feel you might want or need. But here’s what Karen will do: she will get you to question how freely you are prepared to be open and honest and intimate with your phone. She might even make you think twice about big data and how companies and governments collect information about you unknowingly all the time.
Powered by the rather thrilling intersection of theatre, art and technology Karen is smart, here is an app that makes a gentle and poignant cultural interrogation and it’s even funny if you want it to be. In an unnerving way. One things for sure: if you’re like me, it might make you feel wary of my phone. At least for a couple days. And that’s probably a good thing.