The extremity in teenagers' attitudes and actions coupled with the opportunities of mobile communication creates new behaviors and re-shapes existing ones. But however meaningful the phone is in teenagers' lives, it is not designed to support their need for emotional communication and group identity.
What it is
BuddyBeads are techno-jewelry items that facilitate non-verbal and emotional communication among group members, through codes and signals which the group decided upon together.
Each group member has a matching jewelry piece and can use it to communicate her emotional state to the other group members. Messages are decided by the group in advance and construct a secret private code among its members
How it works
Each group member has a matching bracelet. The messages are decided by the whole group in advance and construct a secret and private code-language among the group members.
The bracelets contain two types of beads: friend beads and message beads.
: : Message beads are used for specifying the message sent
: : Friend beads are used for sending the message to a specific friend
Additional layer of communication, which is immediate and varies with each message, is added when the user presses the message bead according to her current mood. The press sequence is recorded and sent as part of the message. The friend receives the message as a mixture of lights and vibrations and can answer back with her bracelet.
Socialization and identity are instrumental factors in teenagers' lives as well as in the design of BuddyBeads. For the individual it answers the need to express emotions instantly to a trusted friend and the need for reassurance she is part of a group. For the group it is a tool which defines and strengthens its identity and boundaries. These notions are represented both in the physical dimension through the object and in the symbolic dimension with the group codes.
Buddybeads is a flexible system that reacts to changes in social structure such as starting and ending friendships or excluding and including group members.