I Want You To Want Me explores the search for love and self through online dating.
Over the past several years, online dating has entered the mainstream, drawing over 50 million visitors per month. En masse, people have condensed their identities into page or paragraph-long descriptions, sometimes complemented by a handful of photographs or peppered with responses to canned questions. These personal profiles are modern messages in a bottle, short statements of self, telling not only who people are, but also what people want. In these advertisements for new human relationships, people package and present their most lovable qualities to help complete their quest to be loved.
I Want You To Want Me chronicles the world’s long-term relationship with romance, across all ages, genders, and sexualities, gathering new data from a variety of online dating sites every few hours. The system searches these sites for certain phrases, which it then collects and stores in a database. These phrases, taken out of context, provide partial glimpses into people’s private lives. Simultaneously, the system forms an evolving zeitgeist of dating, tracking the most popular first dates, turn-ons, desires, self-descriptions and interests.
The data is presented as an interactive installation, displayed on a 56” high-resolution touch screen, hung vertically on a wall in a dark room. On screen is an interactive sky, whose weather (sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowy, etc.) can be controlled by the viewer. Through the sky float hundreds of blue (male) and pink (female) balloons, each representing a single dating profile. The brighter balloons are younger people; the darker balloons older. Trapped inside each balloon is one of over 500 video silhouettes, showing a solitary person, engaged in any number of activities (yoga, jumping jacks, nose-picking, air guitar, etc.). The viewer can touch any balloon to select it, causing its photo to dangle from a string and its sentence to appear in a thought bubble overhead. Touching any balloon a second time pops it. The balloons move through the sky along different paths and at different speeds, bumping up into each other, sometimes traveling together for a time, but only ever getting so close, as each silhouette is ultimately trapped in its own balloon.
I Want You To Want Me aims to be a mirror, in which people see reflections of themselves as they glimpse the lives of others.