'Pavlov Poke' Uses Electric Shocks to Cure Your Facebook Addiction
Robert Morris and Dan McDuff, doctoral candidates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, have come up with a device called the "Pavlov Poke" to help out those who might otherwise find themselves spending far too much time on "email, social networking, or other online distractions," as the two describe.
This is really the kind of thing that one must see to truly appreciate, and we're thankful that Morris and McDuff have created a bit of a video teaser as to what, exactly, their Pavlov Poke does. We've embedded it below, but here's a quick description of the Poke in action: The pair have written code that uses a built-in application logger within OSX to determine whether a user has spent too much time within a particular application. When this happens, the pair's script fires up an on-screen alert.
That's not so bad, right?
Well, in addition to the alert, the script calls for a bit of an electric shock to be produced by an Arduino controller that's been attached to the user's computer via USB. When the Arduino activates the shock circuit, current gets sent through a series of conductive metal strips placed within a keypad that one rests one's hand on while using the system in question. Zap!
"While this project is intended to be a joke, we believe a serious discussion is needed about how communication technologies are designed," write Morris and McDuff.
"A recent study from the University of Chicago suggests that Facebook and Twitter are more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. Further, there is increasing evidence to suggest that, over time, Facebook use reduces subjective well-being. Would you still use Facebook if you knew it made you unhappy? Probably, if you're addicted to it," they add.
Unfortunately, those looking to pick up a shocking device of their own are going to have to head to the drawing board instead of some kind of retail store from Morris and McDuff — the Pavlov Poke is "intended to be a provocative art/design project, rather than a legitimate behavioral intervention."
That said, Morris self-admits that he feels as if he noticed a "significant reduction" in his personal Facebook use once the device was installed.
"However, more research is needed to determine whether this effect is lasting and significant for a wide population of users," he added.
For those less interested in a pain-filled day of Facebooking, the two also concocted a means by which spending too much time on a given site would activate a script that would fire off a job to Amazon's Mechanical Turk – asking a person to call up said Facebooking user and yell at them (for $1.40 per call!)