‘Many people get dogs because they need something that they care about to force them to behave better,’ says Amelie Goldfuss. Intrigued by her talk on design fiction at last year’s Beirut Design Week Criteria Conference, Frame invited the critical thinker to contribute a product, space or service that would address the alarming increase in stress-related conditions amongst today’s workforce. One of five emerging designers whose contributions to the Design to De-Stress Challenge were featured in Frame 119, Goldfuss tackles the issue of unhealthy smartphone usage, which can be damaging not only to physical health but also to relationships and real-world connections. Her proposal? A cyborg smartphone that acts up when it’s fed up.
You want to eliminate smartphone stress?
AMELIE GOLDFUSS: We have almost become one with our smartphones and other devices that keep us online, informed and busy. Today’s devices and apps are engineered to gain and keep our attention. It’s really hard to stop scrolling through semi-interesting, often irrelevant content, and the result is more time devoted to our handhelds than we intend.
What is your solution?
The cphone. It’s a cyborg that can be compared to a combination of your iPhone and your hamster.
How would we use the device?
Just as you use your smartphone, but with one difference. Normal phones are designed to serve you. But the more you use the cphone, the more fed up it becomes. It doesn’t want to be constantly bothered by its user. As you constantly scroll through Twitter or share every meal on Instagram, the cphone’s annoyance level increases. If it doesn’t get enough free time, it gets sick and shrivels up.
The same phone moves through three states: happy and healthy, bored and slightly fed up, and finally, exhausted and miserable. That’s its way of indicating when it wants some time alone, which is great for you, because you were caught in your newsfeed and wanted to stop anyway but didn’t realize it.
What happens if you want to check your mail and it says no?
It can’t say no, cphones don’t have the authority to do that. But when you notice that it’s miserable as hell, you would feel guilty and most likely think twice before checking your mail unnecessarily.
So it forces us to behave better?
Sort of. It’s like the way many people get dogs because they need something to force them to get up early and to leave the house three times a day. By taking care of something or someone else, they automatically take better care of themselves.
Will we love cphones?
Writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley once noted the similarities between cars and pets. People love them, but it’s also a matter of power, obedience and momentary interest. I think most of us are in love with our phones, our cars and even more, our pets. But that doesn’t stop people from getting rid of them, trading them in for newer and more exciting models, even when the old ones are alive and healthy or still working fine. However, you can upgrade your cphone until the organism dies.