Designer Lauren McCarthy of the UCLA Design / Media Arts program has developed a set of wearable devices intended to inspire thought on integrating technology into our social interactions. Within this project, social behaviors changing through negative reinforcement is the general operating principle; each device is programmed to deliver some kind of intense stimulus in response to various social inputs, and wearers are forced to adjust their behavior to reduce the stimulus. In the case of the Body Contact Training Suit, the wearer is subjected to static white noise if they are not in physical contact with other humans for too long of an interval. The Happiness Hat trains wearers to be more expressive, delivering a sharp metal point if the wearer is not smiling. The Anti-Daydreaming Scarf vibrates to remind the wearer to pay attention when in conversation.
Watch a video explanation below:
On some level, the concepts may not be directly practical, given that they primarily assume that this kind of negative reinforcement is a lasting way to influence behavior. Judging by the subtext of the video one suspects McCarthy is aware of this as well, and hopes to inspire deeper conversation on how physical technology can work its way into our interactions in general.
This is becoming more the case as devices are driven by increasingly accurate, responsive, and intelligent sensor systems. To help give some context for how these kinds of devices will work their way into our lives, it helps to consider how present-day digital/social platforms are integrating into our lives ever more seamlessly. Twitter, Foursquare, and any number of other networks subtly guide the contexts in which we communicate, and our behaviors, by extension. This is evident anytime we first look up an unknown contact in Facebook/LinkedIn, and then change our response behavior accordingly. The idea that physical/ubiquitous computing devices will begin to do the same, helping us determine how to best interact with others through physical cues, is not far-fetched.