Anja Neidhardt

Smartwatches promise not only to display the time but to interpret it for their users – to tell them where to go and what to do. This is a tempting offer in a society where everyone already knows the time and where the real challenge is how to manage it. Information technology advisory firm Gartner estimates that 66 million smartwatches will be sold by 2017. Using a wireless connection to team up with a smartphone, smartwatches communicate with their users by sending vibrations, but they also monitor our behaviour with built-in sensors – to help us become better versions of ourselves.

But do we actually want to become better versions of ourselves? What are the implications of asking our personal digital devices to help us master our time? Are they able to make us more efficient? And if so, are we not in danger of becoming predictable human beings? What is the real problem they are trying to solve, and are they the solution?

This paper examines the visible and invisible design of smartwatches in the context of contemporary attitudes to time. By identifying current trends and tracing them back, it becomes clear that smartwatches are built upon time systems that, throughout history, have been designed. By looking at the growing number of countermovements against both smartwatches and the trends that they generate, this thesis explores how smartwatches are failing their users and what alternatives are available.

Gradation project, 2016