What do you get when you mash up Marxist art from the 1960s with check-in apps from the 2010s? If your answer isn’t “Who the $*#& cares?” you may enjoy an iPhone app called “Situationist,” which gives a location-based techno-twist to ideas borrowed from Situationist International, a gang of French artists who (in the words of the latter-day app creators) “sought to transform everyday life and the world through experimental forms of behaviour.” Instead of rewarding you with meaningless badges for vaporous digital check-ins, Situationist urges you to create unpredictable (and yes, arty) little “happenings” with people who happen to be nearby, in hopes of sparking genuine human connection.
The way it works is simple: Situationist’s location-aware design lets it scan your area for other Situationist-ists nearby, then zaps you a photo of them paired with a little “challenge” for the two of you to enact. Then you have five minutes to find the person, do the deed (which can be anything from “hug for 5 seconds exactly” to the more 1960s-ish “storm a local TV station”) and then walk away. Think of it as a fusion of Foursquare and Improv Everywhere, but without the exhibitionism: instead of “creating a scene” for everyone around to gawk at and post on YouTube, Situationist is meant to provoke small-scale shared encounters.
Situationist lets you suggest new situations for the app to field out for others, and also lets you share your own history of completed happenings. But don’t worry about it being filled with stalkers and below-the-belt pics: all photos and situation-suggestions are moderated before making it into the app. Situationist is for folks who want to add a dash of pseudo-anarchic élan into their lives, not Chatroulette-esque pranks. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, download the app, fire up a Gauloise and get Situation-ing.