Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the brain's pleasure system. It is essential for feelings of happiness and reward. For example, when we engage in activities that we enjoy or that make us feel good such as listening to music or meeting friends we haven't seen in a long time, dopamine is released in our brain. Thereby we are rewarded and motivated to repeat these experiences.
However, this principle of the dopamine release reward cycle is also utilized in gambling. When we start a slot machine, our brain is rewarding us simply while the reels are still spinning. The anticipation of a potential win triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, making us want to repeat the experience and thus causes addiction.
Smartphone notifications are programmed with the same mechanism. The mere possibility of receiving a like or a text message prompts us to constantly check our phones for updates, seeking a dopamine reward. For many, it’s difficult or sheer impossible to simply leave the phone unchecked after vibrates. Often we even imagine a vibration through the so-called “phantom vibration syndrome”.
The installation “Anruf in Anwesenheit” locks a phone inside a resin block while constantly being called from a suppressed number. This makes the device unusable, confronting viewers with the cycle of constantly checking their phones through a notification they cannot respond to.