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Let’s face it, small talk sucks. What if… new AI technology could help us develop the skills to change that?
Small Talk: Artificial Presence, Real Connections is an open-air design research project investigating loneliness, artificial intelligence, and the key ingredients for social wellbeing. Step into a modern day “phone booth” and practice the lost art of small talk with the most advanced AI chatbots in town. Try out curated ice-breakers designed to spark meaningful conversations with new acquaintances—human or machine—in a non-judgemental space. Share and compare your thoughts on the encounter with other festival goers by leaving sticky notes on our public reflections wall.
Recent research indicates that the (sometimes) awkward conversations many of us try to avoid day-to-day are actually a powerful antidote for feelings of isolation. In May 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new advisory calling attention to the growing public health crisis of loneliness. Now—in a world populated with talkative, generative AI—we have a choice to make. How will AI impact our ability to form spontaneous connections with fellow humans? Especially in our ‘third places’ like cafes, libraries, parks, and gyms?
The Small Talk conversation booth is a self-guided experience, geared toward folks who may not be familiar with AI systems—or have only heard rumors. Consider it an open invitation to get curious about how new technology shapes communities, and imagine different ways of using our digital tools to foster mindful engagement and personal growth.
This experience was awarded funding by the 2023 Festival Planning Team, for demonstrating alignment to Festival goals.