The Listserve is like Chatroulette meets PostSecret

The Listserve

If you had the chance to tell the word one thing, in any medium format you want, what would you do or say? That’s the idea behind a new social experiment by the ITP masters program at New York University that wants you to subscribe to so that once a day, you’ll receive an e-mail from a complete stranger spilling his or her thoughts.

The Listserve functions like this: Every day you can submit an e-mail sharing your thoughts on any topic you want. Think of this part as PostSecret-esque. Then, The Listserve chooses one submission from a random lottery and contacts the sender whether or not they’d like to be revealed as the author, or sending it out anonymously as “The Listserve.” That’s sort of the Chatroulette part, except you never get to meet the chosen e-mail sender. The project wants you to share whatever that’s on your mind, from recent national news to your new fashion purchase. You can send text, images, videos, whatever your heart desires.

As a product of the class “Designing Conversational Spaces,” Listserve members say the project is a way to spotlight a voice that can often get lost on the web thanks to the various forms of social media and blogging platforms.

“The basic idea that it comes from is to see what people do when given a spotlight,” Listserve member Josh Begley told Betabeat. “I’ve long been curious about that idea. You know, even on Facebook when you see a bunch of friends having this perception that a lot of people are listening, sometimes we end up doing crazy, heartfelt or surprising things. So we’re just trying to create a scenario in which that can happen in a low budget way.”

While the selected e-mail will be completely random, team members will ensure the e-mails that go out daily are not spam or pornographic materials. Since there is no age requirement to sign up for The Listserve, members are working extra hard to ensure no minor receives illegal content in their inbox. At the time of publishing, The Listserve currently has roughly 8,000 subscribers. Once the project reaches 10,000 members, it will begin taking and sending shares from around the world. Hopefully the titles of each e-mail are significant enough for our e-mail clients to not auto-sort them to the spam folder.

What do you think of this social experiment? The idea seems reminiscent of a project back around Valentine’s Day where a professor programmed an algorithm that helps strangers find each other on Missed Connections. Both projects want to merge how communication performs on web space, and the kind of connections that people can form based on barely knowing each other at all.

To learn more about the The List, watch the promotional video below.

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