Content type: Visual Essay documenting the 3D Design Project (Im)material Telephone
Credits: Noud Sleumer (Designer)
Year: 2018

‘This project takes the seemingly catastrophic moment in which the smartphone breaks as an opportunity to redefine the value of the expired object.’
Noud Sleumer

The smartphone holds an incredible amount of personal data and private information, from photographs to calendars, from addresses to emails. For his project, (Im)material Telephone, designer Noud Sleumer investigated what happens to all of this data when our phone inevitably dies and found that it remains on the phone, potentially accessible to all those who know where to look. In response to his findings, he built a machine that dramatically smashes the smartphone to destroy the stored data, rendering personal information inaccessible. The machine unlocks the potential to reuse the phone’s precious materials. After this destructive act, the machine gives the phone’s former owner photographic evidence that their phone, along with the personal information it contained, has been annihilated.

The following images and captions are a visual essay about the Smartphone Destructor machine by designer Noud Sleumer

The Smartphone Destructor
The Smartphone Destructor centralizes the specific moment in which a smartphone breaks as an opportunity to redefine the value of the expired object.
Photographer: Femke Rijerman © Design Academy Eindhoven

The Smartphone Destructor
By inserting your broken smartphone into the upper left inlet, the machine both dramatizes and guarantees the destruction of the data storage, making personal information inaccessible.
Photographer: Lotte Stekelenburg

Place the machine in public space, and it activates new possibilities for the circulation and reuse of materials while preventing the user’s private history from disseminating into the public sphere.
Photographer: Lotte Stekelenburg

At the moment that a smartphone breaks, it transforms from a personalized device into an object with no function. This machine captures the moment in which the smartphone’s inner materials are revealed.

The role of the smartphone cannot be separated from its concrete form: once the software stops working, the hardware takes over. From the perspective of the user, the broken smartphone seems to have lost all value. But from the perspective of the global system of production, this artefact still contains 42 precious materials as well as the user’s unique personal data.
The photo of the destroyed remnants of the phone taken by the machine, is presented as a death portrait/certificate of destruction. It reveals our personal attachment to these devices, while also showing the fragility and raw physicality of the object itself.
The photo was taken by the machine; smartphone: Blackberry 9720

The destruction of both the data and the raw object lies as an intervention between the scale of the individual smartphone and the overall production chain. The machine uniquely processes every object but, simultaneously, deals with a high quantity of objects that justifies the use and need.
The photo was taken by the machine; smartphone: Sony Ericsson T303