One Idea | Four Projects – Turn Me On! (the app)

Just as a quick recap, the nature of One Idea Four projects is to work as a group to generate a research question and associated domain(s) to both help guide the creative process of and academically situate projects.

I really enjoyed participating in the group research portion of this process as each member of the team incorporated their own unique viewpoint and style into the final product. What followed was something more interesting and varied than the same process can often yield alone.

Stemming from this, I wanted very much to readdress one of the critiques of our research question during the initial presentation – that we needed to focus more on the relationship between people and technology, especially the perception of that relationship at the individual, cultural, and societal level (like we said we would and then sort of drew in broad strokes by defining subdomains of human sexuality that could be more easily explored research-wise).

As always, current reading and learning influences choices. After digesting a bit of Virilio’s Vision Machine last week, I was thinking about technology and perception. More precisely, how technology shapes how we think, what words we use, and how we perceive our reality and our place in it. I did some research further into this area and found a great quote from Ihde’s Technology & Embodiment in  a critical essay Technology & Embodiment in Ihde and Merleau-Ponty by Philip Brey.

“Embodied artifacts change our relation to the world, sometimes even profoundly. The microscope, for example, has forever changed the way we understand our world, and the telephone has had an impact on our awareness of place.”Ihde (Technology & Embodiment)

I liked the idea that technology frames the way we perceive our world, the language we use to describe it, and the frameworks we use to understand it. For example, take words we now use like 

  • “Plugged In”
  • “Tuned Out”
  • Network Theory
  • “Wired”

So for my research question, I wanted to narrow my focus of technology and sexuality through this scope. How we perceive, talk about, and understand our own and machines sexuality and how they are related to each other.


Concept Statement

Turn Me On is critical design app that explores how we as humans perceive sexuality through the lens of the technologies of our time.

I want to evoke discomfort, incredulity, and humor from adult users to lead them to question how they describe and perceive their own sexuality when faced with very basic sexualized artificial intelligence (a sex-sim/game), in order to gain a better understanding of how technology drives cultural and societal narratives of sexual perception (language, frameworks of understanding, models of behavior).

Concept, Images, Video

The basics of the turn me on app are:

  • Allows users to choose from six sayings they want to tell their app to try to turn “her” on.
  • Each saying uses random numbers to randomly increment and decrement a counter. Two sayings are more likely to decrement your score, two are purely random, and two are more likely to increment your score.
  • If the counter gets too low, you must reset.
  • If you get “her” to climax, you must reset.
  • Slider at bottom changes language between: American, Spanish, Russian, Australian, Irish, Japanese.
Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 1.28.59 AM
Application Interface


Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 5.04.17 PM
Screenshot of XCode programming environment during prototyping

User testing the app! It was actually a little broken in this version, but this test helped me figure that out and fix it! Woot!

The question I wanted people to ask themselves when playing this app was how does this make me feel about my own sexuality? Other questions were:

  • Are we really turning on the device?
  • The basis of AI – programmed responses to stimulus is kind of similar to the biological response to stimulus. Somewhat predictable…
  • If this app were more responsive, more human, how would we feel?
  • How does this process differ from turning people on?

Link to Presentation

Lessons Learned & Next Iterations

I have been listening to some podcasts on game design lately, and although this isn’t quite a “game” (or maybe it is since it has goals, and feedback?) I think that I’ve learned about that applies to Turn Me On is juice and the concept of circles squares and triangles. The game has goals (turn on the app) and feedback (the voice stimulus) but the feedback isn’t clear enough with the actions, the interface isn’t appropriate for how I want users to touch and feel the app (need more soft shapes and circles, curves), and the languages – although hilarious – don’t particularly make sense with the user experience.

  • Further iterations of this project would make the programmed responses cleaner and more varied.  I would like to make the feedback better linked to the response, and not use random incrementers the same each round. Maybe they switch each round, or somehow I incorporate a pattern. I noticed that users thought there was some sort of underlying pattern or trick when playing and kept asking me what it is.
  • A better algorithm would be developed to enhance interaction between the button text and the app’s reaction – timing, incrementation, text not going on forever.
  • Juice it up! The final climax needs to be WAY more exciting, there should perhaps be some more visual interaction on screen between the voice feedback cues, and the too bored setting could be taken to some really funny places.

Final Impressions

Overall this was a great quick project and at the end of the day I’m most proud that I had an idea for something digital for the first time, and felt that I had the tools and imagination at my disposable to make that idea a reality. That is why I am here.

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