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Charge Your Phone Like You're Kindling a Fire

What are your daily rituals as a digitally connected citizen? You may think your smartphone or tablet makes you more independent, but in some ways, we are getting more disconnected from the basic forces that govern our everyday lives, and that we take for granted, such as electricity. A Zurich University of Arts student named Ramon Marc Zolliker decided to explore this with his project "IMTI: The Act of Charging as a Ritual of the Digital Nomad."

Making fire at will through kinetic energy is mythologized as one of the first skills that set us apart from animals, but many of us have lost that ancient art. Zolliker designed a mechanical device, or dynamo, made of layered wood called IMTI. This contains a drill chuck, or opening, that can be used with any "fire drill"—a water or wind wheel, for example, or any pointed device that can be twirled in the hole—that powers a connected device, such as a smartphone.

Zolliker goes one step further than just proclaiming the new self-sufficiency of the urban "nomad" carrying this device, however. He ties this ritualistic, future-primitive act of charging with the feelings many of us have for our devices; they are a source of information and reassurance, and thus we dote on them, often going out of our way to keep them charged as a busy day wears them down.

Zolliker also learned some unfortunate facts about the proprietary nature of many devices' charging hardware and firmware. "To make my working prototype I had to realize that such a simple principle as charging a phone today is made almost impossible by the manufacturers," he wrote in an email. "You need some tricks [so] that an iPhone allows charging from an unknown source."

As for the digital nomad lifestyle—hopping from one coffee shop to another with your computer and Wi-Fi as your constant companions?

"You actually really can travel and discover the world. In some ways I am truly unleashed," Zolliker wrote.

"Downside actually is that working over different timezones makes work a lot more exhausting and it is not something you would want to do forever... So for a period of time living as digital nomad is a interesting experience but I truly don't hope that this will be our future since it doesn't offer a lot of security."

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Perhaps having to restart the dynamo every time can get a little exhausting.

Ramon Marc

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