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

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If you've been to the theater lately, just about any theater, you are likely reminded before the lights dimmed to turn off your cell phones. Well, not at e- Geaux beta. That's a production here in Washington, D.C., that asks audience members to keep their smartphones on.

NPR's Tamara Keith checked it out.

TAMARA KEITH: Full disclosure here: I'm friends on Facebook with some of the people involved with the show. That's how I heard about it.


KEITH: Walk into the theater and ushers who look like they could work at an Apple store encourage you to opt in to the e-Geaux app.

Unidentified Woman #1: And here you go. You're well-fitted.

KEITH: This app was designed to be part of the show. When audience members opt in, they don't get the functionality it promises. But they do hand over their Facebook data to the performers: their photos, status updates, political views and relationship status. The show has the feel of a tech company product demo.

CEO: Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the founder and CEO of Pepys Inc., Joseph Price.


KEITH: With a black T-shirt and jeans, and an understated manner, the CEO is modeled after Apple's Steve Jobs. Joseph Price plays the part of Joseph Price.

JOSEPH PRICE: He believes in the mission of Pepys Inc., which is to make your life better by making the digital encroach on your personal space as much as possible.

KEITH: There's no set, just a screen that follows along as the show runs through the e-Geaux app's fictional features, using data from audience members to demonstrate how it works. Here are performers Catherine Deadman and Derek Hills.

CATHERINE DEADMAN: Introducing e-Geaux Amigo.


DEADMAN: E-Geaux Amigo, never friend at dud again.

DEREK HILLS: So stop wasting money on expensive vacations to far-off continents just to impress your friends. Take an e-Geaux trip.


KEITH: Status updates, wedding pictures and photos from a wild night out are all taken out of context in the name of comedy. In another bit, the audience learns who in the room has the most friends and who has the least.

HILLS: Both Victor and Dustin have a desperate, insatiable need for more friends. And I say we give them what we need. If you refresh your e-Geaux app right now, you'll have an opportunity to friend both of them.


KEITH: And the show culminates with the ultimate e-Geaux feature: e-Breaux.

HILLS: Guys, I think you're going to love this.

KEITH: Again, Joseph Price.

PRICE: Do any of you guys have a friend who's just a little needy, needs a little too much attention, but you're not quite ready to un-friend them?

KEITH: E-Bro puts your Facebook friends on autopilot; a like here, a comment there, no need to read all those status updates.


HILLS: It's amazing. It's astounding. Think of how many more friends you could have. The Cloud can manage all of your relationships for you. It just works.

KEITH: The show's producers are hoping it gets the audience thinking about privacy, what we share about ourselves, and about the relationships we have online.

Amy Couchoud is the show's director.

AMY COUCHOUD: Is a Facebook connection more vacuous than an in- person connection? Does it have value? And I think the answer is yes and no.

KEITH: At least for now, the e-Geaux app is just theater.

DEADMAN: E-Breaux coming in quarter four 2011 with the rest of the e-Geaux suite.


KEITH: But it might be telling us something very real.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.



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