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All the Rüst That’s Fit to Print

December 13, 2008
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Annina Rüst, Swiss-born artist-inventor and CCG graduate was selected for this year’s NYT Year in Ideas. Congratulations to Annina, whose creativity and dedication are unmatched. We look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Carbon Penance

By JASCHA HOFFMAN


We all contribute to climate change, but none of us can individually be blamed for it. So we walk around with a free-floating sense of guilt that’s unlikely to be lifted by the purchase of wind-power credits or halogen bulbs. Annina Rüst, a Swiss-born artist-inventor, wanted to help relieve these anxieties by giving people a tangible reminder of their own energy use, as well as an outlet for the feelings of complicity, shame and powerlessness that surround the question of global warming.
So she built a translucent leg band that keeps track of your electricity consumption. When it detects, via a special power monitor, that

We walk around with a free-floating sense of guilt that’s unlikely to be lifted by the purchase of wind-power credits.

electric current levels have exceeded a certain threshold, the wireless device slowly drives six stainless-steel thorns into the flesh of your leg. “It’s therapy for environmental guilt,” says Rüst, who modeled her “personal techno-garter” on the spiked bands worn as a means of self-mortification by a monk in Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code.” (Brown de-rived the idea from the bands worn by some celibate members of the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei.)
Rüst built her prototype while working at the Computing Culture group of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also designed the band to punish wearers if they don’t spend enough time talking to their carbon-fixing houseplants. But first Rüst may have to address a more mundane matter. When the spikes dug in, Rüst says, she noticed that the device “doesn’t hurt that much.”

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