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Object Mediated Interactions

Michael Strantz

I am an Austrian Designer with a background in furniture making and a BA in Manual and Material Culture. Growing up in a carpenter family, I was able to gain experience in woodworking and prototyping and I worked on several commercial furniture and interior designs. During my studies at the RCA, I shifted my focus and I worked on concepts that address social and environmental needs suggesting alternatives for the future.

Show Location: Battersea campus: Studio Building, Third floor

It is evident that our current way of living is not sustainable and that for a reasonable lifestyle we need to focus on reduction and slowness in a lot of areas. In terms of my current territory, traveling, I believe in a “slow travel” attitude that focuses on connection to people and culture and remains sustainable for locals and the environment. Taking the speed and efficiency out of the usual travel habit might lead to unexpected adventures and support more natural journeys.

Outcome Detach is a travel diary that helps to disconnect from the digital world in order to immerse in one’s journey and the discovery of new places. The concept empowers people to escape the attention economy where tech companies are vying for more screen time that distracts us from the physical space. 

The travel diary helps to use technology in a healthier way for a travel that facilitates spontaneity and serendipity. It implies a challenge with one's digital habits, with the goal to keep the phone screen covered throughout the entire journey to block all digital interactions. In doing so, the concept changes the way the smartphone is used, since the interaction is less digital using a book and handwritten notes. 

Context The use of digital tools that aim to simplify our life and the extensive time we spend on social media has evidentially negative impact on skills such as social competence, critical thinking, orienting, the acquisition of languages, etc.

Furthermore, the consumption in the digital space has impacted the way we travel. Places are visited because they are “Instagrammable”, there is little interaction with locals, trips are comprehensively planned and determined and new places are discovered in a way that is often shallow and unrepresentative of the visited culture.

Detach includes, on the one hand, a physical book and on the other hand, an app that allows interacting with the phone without having to remove the paper cover throughout the entire journey. The book includes a magnet that holds the phone, a place for a physical map, a sleeve for a pen, and a soft cover diary that can be replaced after each trip.
Chapters and FunctionsThe principles of activating the functions are always the same. First, a note needs to be written down, then the orange indicator needs to be placed next to it, and finally, the page needs to be scanned with the camera by pressing the center of the paper cover. With this interaction, it is possible to navigate, make phone calls, listen to music, translate, see the time or take pictures without the risk to get absorbed by the digital space.
The AppThe app interaction is as brief as possible. After the download, the user only has to log in, activate the detach-mode and place the adhesive paper cover on the screen. After that, all functions that are not required for this experience will be blocked. The app, which includes software for page recognition as well as letter recognition, remains activated until the user ends the journey.
After removing the paper cover, the app generates an image link that can be forwarded to a print shop. The images can be kept with the softcover diary and users have physical reminders of their travels.

Initial Approach With the aim of reducing screen time, buttons were created and linked to shortcuts on the phone. The traveler would only have to press buttons and could leave the phone in the bag, avoiding the temptation to lose themselves on social media while they should actually enjoy the trip. In the shown prototype, the functions of the buttons were based on traveling with functions such as: Where am I? Where is north? Play travel playlist. Translate into the language of the current location. Send current location to favorite contact. and many more.

The starting point of the project Detach was a conversation with a digital nomad, who is traveling while working full time. Initially, a probe was created to help this protagonist to manage his lifestyle. This was an artefact that raised questions aiming to provoke a discourse around this extreme lifestyle.

Discussions with several travellers using the probe as a start for the discourse resulted in a manifesto, which can be seen above. The manifesto that suggests a travel to be authentic and immersive was an important element guiding the project.