shirley s. leung

Can you buy a friend

Can you buy a friend | 2019

Can you buy a friend is an interactive short film that narrates the tensions between two friends navigating the social constructs of the modern, quantified digital era. It brings into perspective questions of unpaid emotional labor, giving vs. taking, as well as ideas of self-worth and valuation. Imagine a world where every thing has a price. How will our most intimate relationships play out? Users have the choice to dictate the path of the story and decide for themselves what they want the outcome of the story to be.

View film here.

Research Process & Experiments

My initial approach began with the investigation of the meaning of Valuation. What is Valuation? How does it differ across people? To investigate this personal meaning valuation, I conducted a few experiments and created a few prototypes to illustrate my research.

One Black Notebook: I began by investigating the value of objects. I started the experiment with a small black notebook which I evidently traded for a magazine, another notebook, an eyeglasses case, and eventually a bottle of wine. 

Most Valuable Possession: While experimenting with economies of exchange, I simultaneously investigated the relationship between object and possession. For this experiment, I asked strangers and friends,“what is their most valuable item and why?” After they given their explanation,I asked them if they could put a price on it, what would it be? 

Buying a Friend: My final experiment consists of me putting into action my concept. I wanted to experience what it was like to physically buy “friendship.” To run this experiment, I asked a friend to either send me money or request money from me before every interaction. Because this was a two-player system, we would have to do this at the same time thus letting the result of this interaction dictate our next move. The awkward, yet subtle implications of each “payment” made for some interesting discoveries about what we personally value. 

Credit: Mintaka Angell as Friend

Using Format