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Politics of Power – Products with embedded ideologies

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Created by Shanghai based design consultancy automato (Simone Rebaudengo + Matthieu Cherubini + Saurabh Datta), working in the field of IoT/networked and autonomous objects, Politics of Power are speculative objects/devices/fictional artefacts that question political and social implications of network ownership/control using ideology driven distribution of electrical power as an analogy.

“For example, in a home, two appliances in the same network must be working at the same time, but because of a power shortage, they cannot run in parallel. This bring us to question, who should be given the priority and why? In every existing network – be it machine or nature, rules are established in order to determine its structure, hierarchy, and the way the communication will be synchronized between all the actors of the network. But who and what criterions will define this power hierarchy? Products and networks are inherently embedded with ideologies of the designers, engineers, and other stakeholders who shape their trajectory along the way.”

Politics of Power is an exploration of these questions on a micro-scale by using a simple ubiquitous product, the multi-plug. The project looks at how a mass-manufactured product – although developed for a precise and unique purpose – could behave differently depending on the nature of its communication protocol and how the design of the product itself could reflect these hidden logic and rules.

Three multi-plugs – Model D, M and T – are designed to look and behave based on different ideologies and structures, allowing people to experience the hidden politics of networks in an everyday life products through an electrical system.

Each socket (of a multi-plugs) can recognize whether something is plugged in; the logic modulates the amount of basic current that each socket has. Each model has a “constitution” based on the pseudo code on the website that define how each nodes (socket) interact with each others. These define the behaviours that can change through time or depending on how many and which plugs are plugged in. For example, on Model T, if the leader (top) is not plugged in, it will lead the bottom in a « chaotic » state.

The devices have been built using custom electronic circuits that include a simple phase detector which detects the phase change in the Alternate Current coming. This is being tracked by Arduino interrupt. Subsequently a triac gate circuit is controlled by the same Arduino to control the amount to current coming out, which is then fed to the out-put sockets. There is also micro switches on the surface of the plugs to detect presence or absence of male sockets (The ones which go to the bulbs). Now this is each of the units or in other words each socket has such a circuit which talks to a Arduino pro-micro.

Project Page | Automato

See also: Ethical Things – The mundane, the insignificant and the ‘smart’ (things)

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