If you’ve ever wondered what PhD candidates at MIT do in their spare time, wonder no more. It’s actually about what you would expect: they make “proactive art/design projects” to administer non-lethal shocks to their bodies when they spend too much time on one application. Or rig systems to have strangers call and yell at them.
Robert Morris and Dan McDuff realized they spent upwards of 50 hours a week on Facebook and, apparently deciding that was a problem, figured they might as well take point from one of the most famous animal testers in psychology, and start shocking themselves.
The Pavlov Poke monitors application usage with a UI inspector, then signals an Arduino board that shocks you if you click over to an application you’ve spent too much time on. The pair said that they did stop using Facebook as much, but would probably need far more shock exposures to be more effective. However, Morris said they found the whole experience so unpleasant that they quickly stopped using it.
Since it now seems that these scientists, though bright, are very averse to any kind of pain, they tried a new method: using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to get strangers to call them and yell at them when they use Facebook too often, using this kind of task. Here’s a video of showing a few of those calls:
While this project might seem a bit like overkill, Morris explains that Facebook is, in a way, nearly as addictive as cigarettes. The entire venture was, according to Morris andMcDuff, intended as a bit of a joke, but somewhere down the line of being shocked and yelled at by strangers, they came to realize that there needs to be a serious conversation about communication technologies. Go figure.
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