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Mobile technology has brought a new wave of communication into our lives, but we are now more likely to turn to our phones than to each other. To address this challenge, Products of Design student Kevin cook designed SOCIALIGHT—a phone-activated table lamp for a distraction-free dining experience.

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"According to Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Coversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, face-to-face conversation is where we develop the capacity for empathy, self-reflection, and a secure sense of self," Kevin notes. "Always on, we’re connected but not invested in others. It’s no wonder frequent use of social media leads to feelings of depression and social anxiety. Also, when we’re on our devices, we lose precious time with our kids, romantic partners, and colleagues. It’s a zero-sum game, and our devices are winning.”

The project addresses an encroaching issue that is likely here to stay. The objective is to create spaces for deep connection, free from distraction—without being restrictive or draconian.

 

When a phone is placed on its upper platform, a magnetometer detects the device’s electromagnetic field...and turns on the light.

 

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The Socialight lamp is simple: When a phone is placed on its upper platform, a magnetometer detects the device’s electromagnetic field...and turns on the light. 

"Socialight is inspired by the phone stacking game—a game played by restaurant goers as a means to avoid looking at their phones during a social interaction," Kevin adds. "With 'phone stack,' diners arrive to a restaurant and agree to stack their phones in the middle of the table. The first person to grab their device before the end of the meal has to pay for the meal. It's a fun game—but with a stiff penalty!

 

When we’re on our devices, we lose precious time with our kids, romantic partners, and colleagues. It’s a zero-sum game, and our devices are winning.”

 

"People love candles or glowing centerpieces on their dining tables—many believe that this goes all the way back to the campfire. (People also look great with glow emanating from the table!) So with Socialight, the consequence for removing your phone is darkness, and I think that's a pretty unambiguous cue to put your phone back down and enjoy the meal and your company."

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To learn more about Kevin Cook's work, visit kevincook.co.