Truth or Dare

Truth or dare: a mobile moral compass for an ethical living

Truth or Dare is an interactive installation based on an add-on application for Twitter that measures whether a statement is true or false through biofeedback readings. Galvanic skin response (GSR) sensors execute readings of skin conductivity and use the variations of values to account for situations of emotional distress. The variations are explained by physiological behavior: in situations of stress our nervous system activates the sweat glands. The humidity of sweat lowers the skin’s resistance to electric current. The variation of conductivity is what is measured by the sensor and interpreted as emotional distress. Based on predefined calculations of baseline values of the current user, the app determines whether a statement is true or false – under the premise that lying disrupts the user’s emotional state. The app relays the information to Twitter and automatically labels the tweet with a hashtag#true or #lie based on the values that were read by the sensor. 

The conceptualization of Truth or Dare is inspired by the Foucauldian concept of “truth games” and “technologies of the self”. This experimental application teases out the ideas of subjectivity as practices of governance of the self (as the user monitors her corporeal performance), and (games of) truth as normative practices of governing knowledge (as physiological data is conferred true or false values). 

The application of GSR by Truth or Dare demonstrates how biofeedback becomes a technological protocol and how it is used as a mapping tool for the body’s performance. The physiological data, technologically rendered, is translated in terms of moral standards (truth or lie) and social norms (criminalization of lie). The forces of social-biotechnological assemblages emerge in the iterations, controversies and conflicts when there is a mismatch between emotional response and discursive performance of the tweets.