Much ink has been spilled, conferences convened, and marriages dissolved over humans’ ability (or lack thereof) to converse. The foundation of much of our daily lives takes place through conversation – increasingly, a digitally-mediated one. That said, it still took me a puzzled minute to piece together what this advertisement for a “Conversation room” (聊天屋) was all about: a place one can go and, for a fee, be engaged in pleasant conversation by someone of one’s preferred sex over drinks (for which the client also pays, natch).

To what end does one’s paying for the conversation enable one’s comfort within it? If you’ve ever felt anxiety around striking up smalltalk with strangers, how would the fact that you were paying for it influence your confidence? Unlike other conversations in a bar-like atmosphere, what if you knew that regardless of the content of your conversation and how many drinks you had bought for your host(ess), your encounter would not veer into the sexual? Sort of kicks the metaphorical legs out from beneath someone for whom in their native/most familiar cultural context, “bars” equal “mating grounds” (hence the “extreme rarity” of seeing a Westerner engaged in such a service, as mentioned in the above linked post).

Zooming out, what would a “conversation as a service” look like in your context? How would it work, and how much would it cost? How would the existence of a market for casual, pleasant conversation change the “value” of such conversation in the many other service interactions that already include it for “free” (barbering, manicuring, sit-down dining, etc.)? Would this change other “expertise-driven” conversation-centered interactions (psychotherapist session, check-up appointment with a doctor, etc.) in your context? How would this influence garden-variety, non-paid-but-still-alcohol-lubricated conversations (and their range of potential outcomes)?

Finally, to circle back to the original impetus for this post, what does this advertising medium imply about the service? Does it “fit”? In the increasingly crowded digital conversations and interactions that define our everyday, consider the economic/comedic value of advertising something through designing and printing a four-sided illuminated vinyl sign, placing it on the back of a tricycle, and paying someone to pedal that tricycle around various neighborhoods known for their bustling nightlife scenes. Where is the line between a “novel” communication channel, and an “outdated” one? How would you advertise a “Conversation room” in your context?

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