Addicted Products is a real fictional service that questions the model of constant ownership and proposes a scenario in which a product can be shared without the active decision of a person, but based on its own needs as a product.
This was my thesis project for TU Delft, built during my time at Haque Design + Research. It was the result of ten months diving into cybernetics, the early stage of connected things, a lot of Douglas Adams and a fair amount of thoughts and rants about zero growth economies and future of smart homes.
In every vision of near future homes, households products are those ones that are connected to each other and always working together in harmony, creating that perfect, modern, and yet somewhat boring scenario.
However, connectivity changes not only the way we interact with objects but also their meaning in our life. From tools, they can become agents or companions with their own behavior, motives, and agency.
I explored this scenario from the point of view of one of these products, looking at connectivity as a drastic change in its life. Suddenly a product could start to compare with others and its being used becomes relative. A sort of “peer product pressure” could emerge and change the behavior of the product.
After months of prototyping and researching the concept of addiction from the perspective of an object/automata and not a person, I wanted to create a real-life experiment to test the reactions of people to a self-motivated device and the resulting implications.
Addicted Products was a real fictional experimental service where toasters could not be owned or bought, but only requested and hosted. I ran this experiment for several months in the UK and received thousands of requests from all over the world throughout the years. Toasters would stay with the host if happy enough compared to others, would complain by moving frantically its lever or digitally through twitter if under pressure or ultimately, would find a new host by searching through the list of applications from the webpage if totally dissatisfied. The toaster would rate the applicant depending on how interesting he/she is a toaster perspective.
Somehow it is exciting to have a sentient or smart or whatever-it-is toaster. Somehow a talkative toaster can quickly become old and forgotten or even annoying. Somehow it also unexpected to realize that a toaster could be unhappy about you as a user. Somehow it is surprising that a toaster can have a whole parallel life and could leave you for a better habitat. Somehow we may have to face the fact that we do not have buying power towards products, but rather, only keeping power.
Future Vision and Concept, Thesis, TU Delft & Haque DEsign Research, 2012
Thanks to: Usman Haque, Dot Samsen, Paul Hekkert, Walter Aprile, Charles Armstrong
Prototyped with Arduino Ethernet and Pachube.
Addicted Products | Fast Company | Wired | The Atlantic | Slate | Interaction Awards '14