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Tech solutions for the self-esteem deficient

Don't you think you could use some of this?

The suite of Peer Pressure tools
Alice Wang

Sometimes we have our issues with, well, fitting in. No, this is not a statement about the confidence levels of gadget freaks, gamers, or nerds--everyone has their junior-high moments. Artist Alice Wang has a new project entitled "Peer Pressure," which consists of a set of gadgets that have been modified to make make cute, humorous, and even provocative statements about how we're all overly concerned about what others think of us (some of us more than others).

Wang's project, which I read about on design blog Notcot, consists of a set of tweaked tech tools that might seem silly to us, but might actually appeal to those with easily-bruised egos. There's a "Popular Mobile," a cell phone that pretends to get a steady stream of text messages so that the owner appears to have tons of friends trying to get in touch with him or her. For music fans, there's a set of double-sided headphones that projects one song inward and another outward--in case you're worried about anyone possibly eavesdropping on a potentially embarrassing playlist.

"Peer Pressure" also has some non-mobile components: "Positive Printer" software that sorts through your e-mail inbox and instantly queues for printing any messages that speak highly of you. And let's not forget the "Fast-Typing Keyboard," which makes you sound like you're putting way more words-per-minute into your computer. (Presumably, it's to ward off embarrassment that you can't type quickly enough. But it could also be used to mask procrastination.)

Actually, I think a few of these could actually be appealing. The "Positive Printer," for example, could be a highly effective component of any hey-boss-give-me-a-raise strategy. And those headphones? I sure could have used those while I was listening to my iPod Shuffle on the subway yesterday, when to my embarassment a Blink-182 song came onto the playlist in between Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Bloc Party. And I had the volume cranked up pretty loud, too, so I'm sure those Brooklyn hipsters sitting across from me could hear it. I just know that as soon as I got off at my stop, they started making fun of me.