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2011-09-19
by Bonnie Aumann

 

Yes Labs and Molleindustria’s Controversial Phone Story

Forget the introductory post, I’ll jump right in with the sort of thing I like to write about.

Today my Android phone looks a little less shiny. No, it’s not the smudge prints or the case that’s seen some wear and tear, but rather Phone Story, a phenomenal collaboration of Yes Labs and Molleindustria.

In a coup for developer freedom and Identity Correction everywhere, The Yes Men–backed Phone Story was accepted into the App Store – for a little while, that is. A few days later, they pulled the app, which includes reference to child labour and factory-worker suicide – both storiesthat have plagued Apple for the the past few years. With this latest removal the debate about how Apple treats apps differently than music books and film has been reignited and has found a place in the press (The Guardian UK published a story on it last week.)

The developers wasted no time and quickly adapted the app for Android, but in the meantime, lets go back to those few days before Apple realized what they had approved into their app store. While Apple has notoriously denied apps that they disagree with admittance to the App Store, they let Phone Story slip through. The game for smartphones openly “attempts to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform. Under the shiny surface of our electronic gadgets, behind its polished interface, hides the product of a troubling supply chain that stretches across the globe.”

It’s wonderfully meta. To win the game, the players of Phone Story were forced to implicate themselves in the very real human misery that their (our) devices require, from coltan extraction in war-torn Congo and suicide-inducing labor practices in China, all the way to the end of the gadget lifecycle in a Pakistani e-waste processing village. The app’s availability exclusively on the iPhone ensured it was hitting its target audience.

Several of the reasons stated for the ban, which occurred just a few hours after release, confirm rather than deny the rather graphic exploitation that occurs in the lifecycle of our beloved smartphones.
15.2 Apps that depict violence or abuse of children will be rejected
16.1 Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected

Talk about Identity Correction.

At the same time, the game creator created a new business model for dissent.

At JESS3 we thrive living on the cutting edge. New gadgets, new innovations in data, targeted design, they are our oxygen. The Yes Men and their ingenious collaborations not only inspire us, they keep us honest.



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