A new installation uses speculative products to explore the social and ethical implications of tech.

Unread Messages, a new exhibition at London’s Aram Gallery, investigates the consequences of always being connected. Working with insights consultancy Northstar, the London-based creative agency Six:Thirty gathered international multidisciplinary designers to create physical, digital and interactive products that respond to contemporary digital anxieties.

One example is Matteo Loglio’s Nomu, a set of color blocks that connect to a computer to help users better manage their time online and reduce procrastination. Each block represents a different activity and an allocated amount of time that users can set to their liking.

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Nomu by Matteo Loglio

I/O by Paul MacGregor tackles the same problem with a different approach. Inspired by nudge theory, I/O is a browser plugin that reminds users how much time they have spent online without constraining them.

Takram London observed the physical tics and compulsive behaviors that come with our tech habits, and created a wearable device that embraces them, turning them into a benefit. Fidgety Machines uses these movements to create noise that will confuse systems that track us.

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I/O by Paul MacGregor
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Fidgety Machines by Takram London
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Roma Levin, co-founder of Six:Thirty, commented on the dichotomy we experience with technology: “The digitization of our everyday lives saves us time and brings us closer to the people we love. Yet at the same time, we feel rushed, isolated or enslaved by our devices. The aim of the project is to improve our relationship with technology by balancing how we choose to use it.”

Technology is empowering, but sometimes it comes with a cost that needs to be recognized. When the Innovation Group surveyed UK residents for our forthcoming Control Shift report, we found that 78% of respondents believe that we’re losing some important human qualities by spending so much time immersed in technology.

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Consumers are seeking to free up their time, increase their productivity and regain control of their devices. When considering how to respond, brands can draw inspiration from the mindfulness movement and de-teching experiences that consumers are embracing. The speculative products at Unread Messages may not be ready for market, but they suggest opportunities for brands that help consumers maintain a positive relationship with their devices.

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