The Perfect Human Application, 2013
The Perfect Human Application (PHA) is a social networking application that tracks and aggregates the quantity of user interactions made on smart devices and social media accounts in order to generate real-time statistical information on a user’s functioning. It calculates a competitive Perfect Human Score, which allows a user to track his or her progress toward perfection, i.e., a greater (or lesser) quantity than yesterday. Most importantly, the PHA allows users to compare their Perfect Human Score to that of friends and family as well as to a greater community of users. Through this process of scoring, the application metaphorically turns the user into a set of dynamic data, making it easy for users to see just how perfect they are, and even easier for them to gauge how perfect they could become.
The application was inspired by and updates Danish Jorgen Leth’s 1967 short film The Perfect Human (see below). In the film, Leth, simultaneously narrator and objective scientist, investigates what makes a perfect human. He strips away superficial societal ideals of 1960s perfection to consider the universal, timeless, and philosophical themes that make humans human: desire for companionship to validate existence and mitigate the fear of the inevitable – dying alone.
The PHA comments on this existential questioning by transforming it into a number game— because numbers only possess meaning in context or in relation to other numbers. However, the app diverts the user’s focus to improving her perfection, obscuring that on the other side of the number is the potential for human companionship.
In order to best understand the how Leth broke down perfection, I began by sketching an updated movie, scene by scene and line by line.
For example, I turned Leth’s: “Look at the perfect human moving in a room… The room is boundless, and radiant with light” into “Here is my Facebook profile. It is impressive. I have likes and dislikes. Here is my perfect Facebook profile.”
And just as Leth built a “perfect” room for his humans, I built myself a “perfect” Facebook profile page with white printer paper— one that was “boundless, and radiant with light.”
Though I enjoyed the white results (with the pop of Post-it pink, the results remind me of Ji Lee’s wordlessweb plug-in), Facebook seemed too specific. My update needed to be its own application that would expose the underlying drive behind social media applications today: sharing and comparing with others.
I started sketching. I grouped different types of online activities to create an anatomy of functioning.
For a week, I collected statistics from classmates, family members, and friends. I set these into graphs and charts in order to determine which made the data easiest to read.
The most difficult part was figuring out how to fit so many different types of information in one small screen. I experimented with different shapes, colors, and sizes to create glance-able and intuitive interfaces.
The final interface is designed around the calendar so users can see at a glance their change in perfection over time, as well as how it compares with others in their network.
As of now, the PHA is a completely speculative project. For more information, visit Content Blackout.
The Perfect Human Application was presented at The Ideal and the Real: Contemporary Positions in Art Criticism, at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, May 2013, and at the New Media Caucus Showcase CAA 2015, Hunter College, New York, NY, February 2015.