The Corporate Fallout Detector

James Patten, a Ph.D. candidate in the Tangible Media Group at MIT’s Media Lab, has invented the Corporate Fallout Detector.


The device scans barcodes of goods, and makes a clicking noise based on the environmental or ethical record (selectable via the “sensitivity” switch) of the manufacturer. The more “click click” you hear, the worse are the ethics of the company.
The system works by correlating several online bardcode databases with a pollution database and a corporate ethics database.

The products on the shelves in a store look more or less the same whether they were manufactured using child labor, or they increase pollution, etc. These aspects of products are like nuclear radiation (invisible, dangerous, complex), which is part of the reason Patten designed the Corporate Fallout Detector to look and sound like one of those Geiger counterm sold to the public in the cold war era.

The goal is primarily to encourage awareness and curiosity, rather than to serve as an educated consumer’s sole source of information.


The work got an honorary mention for transmediale 2005.
See also his more recent Audiopad.