Everyone's first few days spent using email or IM brings with it the curious eroticism of communicating with someone you can't see, don't know, but are nevertheless in direct contact with.
There are many reasons for this, of course, including the distance that appends to words we write vs words we speak, the ability to project onto your conversational partner those attributes what are left to the imagination in a written medium, the tension inherent in the "so close yet so far" gap (like a strip club in this regard, though a strip club uses physical proximity and personal distance, the inverse of email conversation), and the fact that when we read what's been written by someone we don't know, we hear them in our head in our favorite voice -- our own.
A group in London is trying to take advantage of the eroticism of text through "Silent Dating"
, which is bascially in-room IRC with paper and pens. The idea is to link the strip club pattern (not the nakedness, but the disconnected physical proximity) with the telegraphic flirting of IM, in order to fuel libidinous communication.
Now enter the world of tranquility. Where singles flirt and lose their lustful inhibitions through the art of silence.
This is the Silent Party. A modern revolution in dating.
Your tools for the evening - pen, paper and your ability to find a date without opening your mouth. This is dating for the truly discerning customer who likes to be in control. Up to 100 singles meet and pass naughty notes to the objects of their desire.
The event is hosted by the same people who set up speed dating events, and it seems to be in part a response to scale. Speed dating sets up high two-way transaction costs, which in turn creates a link-density vs time tradeoff, which in turn limits the number of participants.
With Silent Dating, the transaction costs plummet (no need to explicitly pair one man and one woman for a period of time -- just gather a group let the messages fly.) And, as a result, they've greatly increased the potential number of participants and lowered the pressure to get a 1:1 match in the group as a whole.
(As a side note, the Silent Dating events in Cleveland, Chicago and London all maintain that it was invented in NYC, and that it has taken that town "by storm." However, all the 'silent dating' links Google knows about fall in the last month, and most in the last two weeks. The internet moves ideas fast, but those ideas are still sold to people as if they are passing by cultural diffusion, both to validate that they have worked elsewhere, and to suggest that they have been ratified by an elite population.)