Things That Don't Turn Off


Most of the artifacts from the near future I’ve been designing and making have this peculiar property where there’s no on-off switch. I first started thinking about this peculiar idea when I thought about how basically all of my digital stuff just stays on. My laptop. My normal human phone. My mobile phone. These things just stay on all the time. They go to sleep, certainly — but they don’t get switched off entirely.

Why this is interesting? I thought that thinking of our devices and what they do for us as persistent, things we’re always accountable to — in other words, you can’t just cut them off, or silence them or some such thing. More like pet ownership than just having an inert object that can be denied when it is convenient to ignore them, or discard them.

In the near future, our participation with the digitally networked world may be more ambient, with perpetual presence. Our devices will become more like personalities either because of some kind of intelligence (not likely) or because of our human ability to invest personalities in things, even if they don’t have computer chips or dubious “smart appliance” features. These devices will be with us like a good friend or a nagging, poorly trained pet — hide them if you don’t want them around or leave them outside, like a pet — put them in a crib like a baby that needs to rest (and from which you need rest).

Why do I blog this? Making things that don’t turn off forces an entirely new sort of approach to design and functionality that I’m interested in exploring through these designs.

2 thoughts on “Things That Don't Turn Off”

  1. Always on electronics is very similar to BEAM robotics and approaches such as wild robotics 🙂 What implies these new wild pcb’s ?

    Changing perspective from assimilation (grid, battery) to accomodation (photovoltaic, motion-based, etc) opens intriguing design questions when it comes to shape things. In this respect, these new objects are techno-organisms, a specific class of biojects ( ).

    Here is a early research of solartronic devices ( ). We’re working now on a solar-radio with no battery. To activate it, you should bring it sunlight and to put it off to find a dark shelf 🙂 What is nice about that is that energy constraint leads to new interaction rituals :]

  2. Yes — these things are quite interesting j-b. Thinking of different ways to imbue our devices with characteristics or properties that integrate them into our lives is intriguing. Its something fresh that isn’t about just a new confusing feature or something. Just a property — this thing obeys the sun, for example. Or this thing goes to sleep at certain times. These properties are very intriguing to me!

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