Hopelessly addicted to email, social networking, or other online distractions?
Robert R. Morris and Dan McDuff
created Pavlov Poke to wean themselves off Facebook and finish their dissertations.
How does it work?
The design is simple. There are four important components:
- UI Inspector: You need something to monitor computer application usage. We use the Mac's UI Inspector.
- Processing Code: If
a distracting site is visited too frequently, a Processing script produces an on-screen alert.
- Arduino: An Arduino is connected via USB to the computer. When a shock is triggered, the Arduino
activates a relay and starts the shock circuit. If you want more info on how to build a
shock circuit, check out this fine tutorial.
- Electrodes: Conductive metal strips are placed on the keypad. When the
Arduino relay is triggered, a current is sent through the strips and through palm of your hand. Ouch!!!
Wait! Shocks Not Creepy Enough For You?
How about having a total stranger call you up and yell at you?
To our knowledge, this is the first system ever designed to prank call yourself! And its pretty easy to build. All you need is:
- UI Inspector: You need this to monitor computer application usage.
- Python Script: If you look at a site too frequently (e.g., Facebook), a python script automatically posts a job to Amazon's Mechanical Turk
- a crowdsourcing labor market. Here's what our script looks like. We'll posted this on github as well.
- Mechanical Turk: On Mechanical Turk, a worker automatically gets recruited to call you up and yell at you. Check out this example task.
- Phone Line: You'll need a phone number for workers to call you.
While this project is intended to be a joke, we believe a serious discussion is needed about
how communication technologies are designed.
Technologies like Facebook are addictive by design. According to comScore, Facebook users spend an average of 400 minutes
per month on the site. A recent study from the University of Chicago suggests that Facebook and Twitter are more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.
Further, there is increasing evidence to suggest that, over time, Facebook use reduces subjective well-being. Would you still use Facebook if you
knew it made you unhappy?
Probably, if you're addicted to it.
All too often, people assume they use a given technology because they want to and because
it is in their best self-interest. Unfortunately, this assumption does not align with how these technologies are designed. Sites like Facebook are crafted
on the basis of something called engagement metrics, which measure the number of daily active users, the time people spend on the site, etc.
Unfortunately, these metrics are not designed to assess well-being.
A product can have incredibly high engagement metrics, and yet be extremely
bad for its users (cigarettes, for example).
One approach is to build devices like 'Pavlov Poke' to help eliminate the online habits we already have.
Another, perhaps more enduring approach, is to change the norms around how technologies are adopted.
If a technology appears especially sticky, users should proceed with caution and take pains to assess how the
technology affects their mood over time. New innovations around experience sampling could help facilitate this form of affective self-discovery.
Unfortunately, as new technologies become more mobile, they become harder and harder to resist.
Indeed, the more ubiquitous and accessible the technology, the more addictive it can become. This is why Facebook built Facebook Home.
This is why extra caution should be given to technologies built for devices like Google Glass.
Personally, I don't want to try Glass until I know I can manage its potentially addictive properties. The last thing I want is to
have to build a shock device that's hooked up around my eyeballs. Eek!
- Does this work?: For this to really promote lasting behavior change, we suspect
you'll need many exposures to the aversive stimulus. Proper conditioning procedures should be followed. This also assumes that users won't immediately disconnect the device after
receiving a few nasty shocks.
Anecdotally, I (Rob) noticed a significant reduction in my Facebook usage after installing this device.
However, more research is needed to determine whether this effect is lasting and significant for a wide population of users.
- Who got shocked the most in the video?: Dan wins points for bravery here.
- Are you selling this device?: No.
- Can I hook this up to my kids so they stop using the computer all day?: Yikes. Please don't.
Also - this isn't a real product at the moment. This is intended to be a provactive art/design project, rather than a legitimate
- Design and Engineering: Robert R. Morris and Daniel McDuff
- Video Production: Zayde Buti, Paula Aguilera, and Jonathan Williams
- Typeface Design: Victor Bagu
- Scary Music: Mike Koenig
We have been overwhelmed by the popularity of Pavlov Poke - here are a few of our favorite reports: