Switch Critters – Can you make them switch?

Van Mensvoort
December 27th 2007

Switch Critters by Hannah Regier

Earlier we discussed the Magical Interaction project, in which Joris van Gelder rethought the boring activity of switching on/off a light by transforming it into a magical experience. His idea was to leave room for imagination while interacting with a product. This should evoke wonder and surprise and make the interaction more interesting for the user.

Hannah Regiers' Switch Critters also leave room for imagination. But instead of amusing the user with the feeling he is the star of a magical show, these switches have to be persuaded to switch. Their behaviors are influenced by data flows, such as the quality of local air, the load on the power grid and the global carbon index. "Data becomes mood, designed into personality. Switch Critters know something about the world that people can absorb through observation, interaction... and a little bit of imagination."

At first you think these switches are completely useless and horrible because they don't switch just when you want them to: you actually have to put effort in them -for instance by holding them still for some time or by tenderly stroking them- to persuade them to make the switch that turns on the light or starts your car. After a while the feeling of un-control becomes more satisfying, leading to a more mindful interaction and awareness of the rhythms in the environment. In old nature the light of the Sun could also not be switched on/off with the push of a button so why should it be any different in next nature?

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Should men be able to give birth to children?

Koert van Mensvoort: Is the artificial womb frankenstein-like symbol of (male) engineers trying to steal the magical womb from women? Or… is it a feminist project and needed to reach through equality between the sexes? I personally lean towards the latter. To me it feels like progress if a girl can tell a guy to carry the womb for a change.

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