Social Mobiles for IDEO

Mobile phone behavior exploration

Social Mobiles is an exploration into mobile phone behavior. Rather than create a set of phones that addressed aesthetic concerns of mobile phones, designer and artist Crispin Jones worked as a research associate with IDEO to create five working mobile telephones that in different ways modify their users’ behavior to make it less disruptive. The intent is to provoke discussion about the social impact of mobile phones. Social Mobiles was included in the “Design for the Elastic Mind” exhibition at the MoMA in 2008.

SoMo1 is the electric shock mobile. This phone delivers a variable level of electric shock depending on how loudly the person on the other end is speaking. As a result the two parties are induced to speak more quietly. These phones would be given to repeat offenders who persistently disturb others with their intrusive conversations.

SoMo2 is the speaking mobile. This phone allows a user to converse silently: a person receiving a call in a quiet space can respond without speaking, using simple but expressive vowel sounds that they produce and intone manually. This is the antithesis of text messaging in that it conveys rich emotional nuance at the expense of textual information.

SoMo3 is the musical mobile. This phone requires the user to play the tune of the phone number they wish to call. The public performance that dialing demands acts as a litmus test of when it is appropriate to make a call. Children would take phone lessons in order to learn to play their phone.

SoMo4 is the knocking mobile. The user knocks on this phone to communicate the urgency of their call. The recipient hears this knock through their phone and can be discerning about which calls they answer. Given time people would learn to recognise each other’s knocking mannerisms.

SoMo5 is the catapult mobile. This phone can be used to launch sounds into other people’s phone conversations. Firing the catapult transmits a sound into the offender’s phone. This provides a direct yet discreet way of invading their space. Businesses will supply users with a choice of interrupts to launch from their phones.

Project date: 2002