This Clever Lamp Only Works When You Fork Over Your Phone
Our phones are more than little boxes of technology that we happen to carry around—they’re practically extensions of our bodies, they’re our closest companions, our crutch in awkward situations, our favorite distraction. Think of how much time you spend staring at that bright little screen; it’s probably way more than the time you spend with the people you love most. By now, the idea of finding a life/tech balance is almost laughable. Some people might argue that our phones and devices have become so woven into our daily lives that it’s pointless to think of them as separate entities anymore. Weng Xinyu is not one of those people. “We human beings are creating new objects and technologies at a speed the world has never seen,” he says. “We spend more time with them than with those we love, but life is elsewhere.”
“We are creating new technologies at a speed the world has never seen.”
The Berlin-based designer acknowledges that devices have made the world a better place, but, he adds, “we’re obviously not ready to appreciate them in the right way.” Sometimes we need a gentle reminder of how truly dependent we’ve become on our personal technologies, which is why Xinyu created the Balance Lamp. The seesawing table lamp has a simple premise: If you want light, you gotta hand over your phone. Left alone, the lamp’s shade is angled downward, but as soon as you insert your cell phone into the slot on the other end, the weight shifts and the lamp begins to rise, automatically switching the light on. It’s a clever little trick, and a smart visual representation of our unbalanced lifestyles. But more than that, it forces you to make a choice: What’s more important? Light or your phone?
Xinyu has long been interested in the idea of rebalancing our relationship with technology, and he purposefully chose a low-tech solution that didn’t require electronics or programming. “If you fight tech with new tech, you’ll have to fight the new tech again,” he explains. He stuck with simple materials—a beech wood frame, aluminum lampshade—and a recognizable form, which he hopes will make the lamp as intuitive and inviting as possible. “It would be great if people who see this lamp say, ‘Well, I think I should really put down my phone and go back to my real life.’”
In our everyday life, we’re not forced to make these choices. We’re totally free to decide how we spend our time and where we place our attention and energy. Xinyu’s lamp is an ultimatum, but the designer says the point is not to force people into relinquishing technology. Rather, he hopes the lamp will act as a little push to interact with the people around you, make some eye contact, and you know, just come up for air every so often. “Being forced creates resentment. Products don’t have their desired influence if people hate them,” he says. “So if a product has something to ask of a user, it should be a kind reminder.”