“myBALL” by Shawn Rider

Screen capture of "myBALL" by Shawn Rider. Blue background with white text and a picture of a boy holding a red ball on the right side of the shot.
Open “myBALL” by Shawn Rider

myBALL is a Flash based mock product site that satirizes a kind of sales pitch commonly found in the web. By clicking the initial slogan “The future of robotic toys is now” we enter the wonderful world of corporate parody and get to know myBALL.

However, exploring myBALL is to encounter much more than a mockery of corporations. Under the heading “For Kids” we find the phrase “Who needs friends when you’ve got myBALL? The promise is that myBALL will return to the child therefore eliminating the need for another person to play, it will talk to him when his parents are too busy, it  will keep secrets without ever revealing them (unless one were to use the parental access feature) and it will give the answers to important questions. myBALL is Sherry Turkle’s most nightmarish scenario, something that even goes beyond Alone Together. Because if PARO is designed to keep people company for therapeutic purposes, the threat of myBall is all too real. In Isaac Asimov’s “Robbie,” the mother experiences a sense of menace that, in her mind, comes from Robbie. She is afraid that it could replace her in her child’s affection. myBALL’s fictional purchasers hope exactly for that: something that will relieve them from the burden of parenthood.

If you think that this is only a parody, think again: myBALL is already here. It is your smart phone, your Google, your Facebook. Shawn Rider’s text denounces a world in which relationships are superficial or almost non-existent, constrained within the boundaries of one hundred and forty characters. In the end, myBALL is funny in the same way that Terry Gillian’s Brazil is funny: superficially and thoughtlessly. Once the reader starts reflecting, the amusement fades to make space for an uncomfortable feeling that might eventually turn into despair.

Featured in The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1.