Shopping is an act no longer driven by need, but a hobby, a tradition, an addiction, an obsession, even a citizen's duty in its own right. Whether the natural effect of the year-round marketing and advertising baths we are immersed in, or whether a particularly urgent pursuit at a time of the year when it is good to give - and to give one must buy first - shopping is endemic to our all-embracing capitalist values. Yet the short-lived happy-hormones release it triggers in our brains is leaving behind a trail of personal debt and environmental blight. And this courageous little handbag is having none of it.
The bag's inside pocket is a credit card holder, sewn into it are a LED light and a sensor which picks up the removal of the credit card from the holder, and sends a signal to a whole bunch of electronics hidden in the bag's false bottom, which in turn activate a number of voice recordings which try to persuade you to renounce the item of your desires and put the credit card back in your bag.
Messages, recorded using a platform called Arduino, are played in the voice of English actor Ray Winstone, the hard-tone delivery he is famous for meant to publicly shame even the most thick-skinned shopper into frugality. As the credit card is first taken out of its holder, messages of a deterring nature are played, such as: “Put it back!” or “Is that really necessary?”.
If the card is not returned to the holder within a certain time, the system will assume that you've gone ahead with the purchase, and so menacing sounding messages like “You are going to regret that” , or “That will be a dent in your savings” will then try to publicly embarrass you.
According to The MONEY Charity: "Citizens Advice Bureau in England and Wales dealt with 4,097 new debt problems every day during the quarter ending September 2015"- and with Christmas knocking, it is fair to assume that the number will rise further vefore the end of the year.
The issue of overspending and debt was indeed clearly on the designers' minds with this talking bag. Yet they see their bag as a conceptual project that seeks to stimulate conversations around social problems, rather than a product to be mass produced.
Publicly shaming people for their behaviour may not necessarily achieve the desired results, and a talking bag would probably not work in the context of online shopping. Here, a smart phone or desktop application equivalent of the bag that sends a series of messages every time you are about to make an online payment may better help people question whether they truly need what they're about to buy, therefore helping manage their budgets and to prevent further debt (as well help reduce individual consumption levels). Messages suggesting more sustainable alternatives, second hand, local etc. could also add an environmental focus to such an app.
Yet, at a time of the year when we are relentlessy encouraged to buy things we don't need often with money we don't have, this is still a very bold project by the three designers. Through it, an alternative voice to the dominant messages we are bombarded with is offered, and awareness not just about debt but about consumption more broadly is raised.