Even though self-improvement seems undeniably beneficial to all but maybe the pure egoists, its still hard for many of us to implement the changes in our lives that we know we need to make. Some may argue that it’s simply a question of willpower, but what if a lack of willpower itself is one of the issues that we’re having a hard time changing? In a society that has become increasingly centered around instant gratification, a lack of patience and mindfulness makes it hard to say no when it feels so good to say yes. There is a growing need for new, evolved tools to help us help ourselves, but in an innovative, fun way, not by defaulting to the simple and dated reward and punishment systems.
That is the focus of research group Experience Design at the Folkwang University of Arts in Germany, who has been working on fun, alternative tools for self-improvement for the fast-paced, tech-centered generations. The team has created several transformational gadgets called “Pleasurable Troublemakers” to help individuals cultivate good habits, whether they be about personal issues like impulsiveness or procrastination or globally conscious issues like about the economy or the environment.
So how does the group deviate from old techniques and predictable designs? They do it by centering the technology around psychology and behavioral science instead of quick bandaid solutions. It helps that the head of the group is psychology professor Dr. Marc Hassenzahl, who realizes that there is an increasing need for innovative and enjoyable motivational tools to help people succeed.
So the team’s goal isn’t about stifling your true self or promoting a strict life. It’s about helping people become the person they want to be, explains Experience Design team member and doctorate student Matthias Laschke. Whether the habits involve issues with willpower, procrastination, or even environmental conservation, the team’s designs focus on bringing awareness and mindfulness to the issues at hand, and in a non-judgmental way.
Several of their motivational gadgets include the ReMind, the Chocolate Machine, and the Shower Calendar.
ReMind, a tool designed to curb procrastination, is a large rotating calendar that you can stick to-do items on via small magnetic disks. If you’ve been avoiding a task and haven’t completed it by your deadline, the disk annoyingly clunks down onto the floor for you to either procrastinate and replace it on the wheel or finally just complete the task. It sounds too simple to work, but the experimental results showed the device is actually effective at diminishing habits of procrastination.
The Chocolate Machine is designed to test, measure and improve willpower through a chocolate dispensing device. Either give in and eat the hourly dispensed ball of chocolate, or put it back in the machine and click the counter to record your successfully applied willpower.
The Shower Calendar is a user interface that displays how much daily water you use during a shower and compares it to other household members, inspiring a friendly competition for a greater end of water conservation and financial savings.
The Never Hungry Caterpillar and the Forget Me Not Reading Lamp are other tools by Experience Design that decrease energy consumption by fostering resource awareness through visual cues and active engagement.
And the group doesn’t just design and run – they actually run studies on the effectiveness of their designs, making sure they have experimental evidence that the designs actually do what they claim. The team hopes their successfully tested prototypes will be available soon to the public via funding from Kickstarter.
The group is also very passionate about free education – they have created a non-profit foundation of comprehensive and completely free open-access education material, for absolutely anyone interested in design and technology and written by expert authors including those from MIT, Stanford, and Google.
To learn more about the team’s goal of a global shift towards higher concern for the well-being of the world through conscious design and technology, read their inspiring manifesto published by the Dr. Hassenzahl here.