This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Natasja Bökkerink is a graphic designer who received a bachelor in graphic design at the Willem the Kooning in Rotterdam. She also followed a minor in Critical Studies. Bokkerink uses her work to raise questions around the topics of feminism, productivity and consumerism. As a designer she feels responsible for showing different perspectives to those who feel trapped or oppressed by the current way of living.

Emptying out is a mobile application that acts as a self-tracking device that encourages the user a game of erasing. The app criticizes the idea that self-tracking and habit-changing applications improve certain good habits and can give the consumer a long-term change. Bökkerink believes that these methods only encourage the user to look for short-term rewards: popular concepts like personal development, mindfulness or minimalism are not a competition where a winner will be crowned. It needs time and space and also the act of letting go with no goal in mind. It needs self-reflection on the individual’s consumer behavior. Emptying out rewards slowing down and puts a halt to obsessive behavior, no matter how good the intentions of the user might be. 

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The application will be found in app stores next to already excisting apps in the wellness category. With this decision, Bökkerink hopes to find her app next to self-tracking apps like Headspace to provide an alternative to smartphone users. Emptying Out can be perceived as a game that wants to make the user aware of their obsessive behavior. When opening the game, the player is triggered to read further into app. But when doing so their screen is being erased: only by slowing down the player will be able to read the contents of the application. The game measures and tracks various elements of the usage of the phone such as the empty space created by playing the game, the screen time of the user and the distance of scrolling. 

Natasja Bökkerink's Emptying Out application.

Emptying Out as an application might not be considered as very useful and players might want more out of the app than it is willing to give. But that touches the very essence of it: it challenges the idea of the value of usability and raises questions about the eagerness to find a goal. And should solutions be a goal in itself? It reminds us of the reward system of our human brain and how it influences everyday consumer behavior. The app can be perceived as a digital artwork that serves as a critical voice.

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Bökkerink believes that gamification and self-tracking will not make consumers find more value in long-term behavior and thinking, but will only grant them with short-term rewards. She thinks that our growth-mentality cannot be stopped by minimalism and mindfulness since they have become part of the system they are trying to oppose.  Curious about the app? You can visit the website and download it here.

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