Wisephone / Your cell phone has a social conscience app
A 5 minute design charrette
The challenge: imagine a design solution to reconciling the dilemma between our desires for technology and gadgets on the one hand and our conflicted feelings about the labor conditions that are necessary (?) to manufacture those products at an affordable price. These gadgets are predominantly made in China.
Solution: Next time you upgrade, don’t get a smarter smartphone. One-up yourself and get a Wisephone. Participating handset manufacturers and service providers will offer special Wisephone versions of their products featuring default screen images of the quality testing technicians that test phones at the factories.
Cell phones are assembled by people, not robots. Before it went into a box your phone’s parts were assembled by hand. Its camera was tested by a real person with a name. One of those quality testing pictures is chosen by the technician as the permanent wallpaper image for your phone.
What’s that? You want to replace the photo with one of your choosing? Sorry, you bought a Wisephone so you can’t do that. You will see Hui Zhong’s face every time you power up your device. You love your phone. It’s your constant companion. You depend on it. Your phone is your friend and, in a way, so is Hui Zhong. Her hard work made your phone possible. You have a close relationship with your device and so does she. Thanks, Hui Zhong!
Wisephone is a way we can embrace the gadgets we love and at the same time promote human rights, better working conditions and, hopefully, circumspection. Think of Wisephone as a labor relations/human rights version of the Product Red program, which benefits projects that work to eliminate AIDS. Wisephone would encourage overseas factories to adopt better labor standards. Would it work?
A note about the “Hui Zhong” image I used. In August of 2008 Wired featured a story about an iPhone customer in England who unboxed his iPhone and discovered that it contained photos of an employee in a factory in China. The image used here is one of those from the English gentleman’s phone. Her name isn’t Hui Zhong. Hui Zhong is a Chinese woman’s name that means beautiful on the inside and smart of the outside.