“We know what you’re thinking and we can make you do what we want”

Started on 01/11/2001

The Camrophone is a critical design device that illustrates an certain perspective, or argument, by constructing a demonstrative game: an act of legerdemain.

The Camrophone is a practical demonstration of the extent to which people draw on the affordances of objects in order to use them, and of the power that designers have to either lubricate, or interfere with, this process. The body of the Camrophone is purposefully non-informative; little knowledge of its function can be ascertained from its form, save the addition of the telephone handset.

The true function of the object is to take photographs of people, and to maintain an archive of their interactions. In order to record naturalistic, authentic photographs the device takes pictures without forewarning. This is achieved with the use of the handset. On approaching this ambiguous device, people search for points of reference, finding the handset they presume the context – communication device.

The lifting of the handset is the trigger of a chain of events that cause a picture to be taken. The height and dimensions of the devices body, in conjunction with the handset, infer a standing position (to the person interacting with the device) which is within the field of view of the camera lens. A photoflash is emitted from the device and this, in conjunction with the fact the handset is totally inert, informs the person interacting with the Camrophone that the true purpose of the device is to take photographs. It is important to note that the flash is unconnected to the taking of the picture, it is simply there to let the person know – “I’ve just taken a photo of you.”

The device then prints a hardcopy of the person’s picture, amongst a community of other people's pictures. The archival evidence of the interactions of numerous people illustrates the presence of a common reaction to the device.

Incidentaly: the Camrophone was conceived and built before camera phones were commercially available, and has nothing to do with mobile telephones that have inbuilt cameras.