"To improve society spend time with people you haven't met"

John Cage

The Talk To Me (TTM) project is a multi-nodal network for serendipitous public communication between strangers. The idea is simple. Reprogram 10 NYC phonebooths to call one another, then place them strategically throughout the 5 boroughs. Participants who pick up any one of the TTM receivers will set the others ringing, inviting passing strangers to answer the call. Drawing on a series of public works that have imbedded themselves into the fabric of New York city over time, the TTM project aims to be a long term participatory project that is both a real part of people’s everyday lives, and a piece of NYC folklore that acknowledges the very tangible benefits of talking to strangers about everything from the meaningful to the mundane.

Originally planned to take advantage of an aging NYC phonebooth infrastructure, each phonebooth in the TTM network would have had its 3 advertising panels replaced with a soft semi-opaque white acrylic, then behind each acrylic panel, micro-processor controlled LED lights would dim and brighten to produce the calm rhythm of breathing. This lighthouse effect drawing participants to an unusually familiar beacon, inviting passers-by to activate the project by picking up the receiver. 

Instead of launching Talk To Me in April 2020, the pandemic has expedited the removal of NYC's aging phonebooth infrastructure, upon which the project depended. After salvaging several of the phonebooths being removed to use for the project in the future, we are embarking on the slow process of placing booths back on the street. That's no small task in the current environment so for the meantime, we are looking to deploy the network in a more informal manner by using interstitial spaces that don't require city approval, permits, and architectural plans. In this way, we hope to begin facilitating serendipitous conversations by early 2021.

If you have private property with public access, know of some spaces that exist outside of known ownership, know of places that people have forgotten, or just generally have a thought, we are open to all ideas. This project is about creating opportunities for serendipitous connections between strangers so the only true criteria is that the phone has to be publicly accessible, and even thats up for interpretation!

If you have an idea about placing a booth please contact me at Jordan@publicadcampaign.com.

A huge thanks to Ed Bear for inventing and building the technology solution for the TTM project

Please consider supporting the Talk To Me project by purchasing artwork or making a tax deducitible donation through our fiscal sponsor, the New York Foundation for the Arts. Your contribution will help this project break ground in 2021, and provide serendipitious public conversations between strangers for years to come.

Jordan Seiler