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e-Geaux: Social Networking Without The Social Or The Networking

Courtesy of Pepys Inc.

Have you ever wanted to put a Facebook friend on autopilot?

Make them think you care without the time commitment of leaving a meaningful birthday message or the trouble of reading their ranting comments. A "like" here, a comment there — just enough to make it believable?

Well, Pepys Inc. has what you've been looking for. E-Breaux is part of the company's suite of Web solutions called e-Geaux (beta).

That's pronounced "ego" and as you may have guessed, it's too good to be true. The e-Geaux app is the centerpiece of a play with performances this week in Washington, D.C. The show's producers hope to get audiences thinking about our increasingly personal relationship with social media, about privacy, and about the often-vacuous nature of online interactions.

/ Courtesy of Tamara Keith
Courtesy of Tamara Keith

Just as Web 2.0 made the Internet interactive, this production aims to make theatre a digital interactive experience, starting from the moment you enter the theater. Ushers who look like they could work at an Apple store encourage audience members to use their smartphones to opt-in to the e-Geaux (beta) app.

Now, this app isn't real. It's all part of the show. But by opting in audience members are handing over their Facebook data to the performers. Their photos, weeks worth of status updates, their political views, their relationship status.

In this theater piece they're using the language, visuals and technology you'd expect at a showy product demo from a social media startup company.

Throughout the demo, audience members' Facebook data appears on the screen. Photos and status updates are taken out of context. Laughs ensue.

And when it's all over, you're left to wonder if e-Geaux was real; would you choose to opt in?

Full disclosure here, I was invited to this show via Facebook — three times, from three Facebook friends involved in the production.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.