Miami Developers' App Reveals iPhones' Possible Sweatshop Beginnings
Games aren't supposed to be all fun. Just ask Lee Szymczyk, the mind behind ILoveFoxConn, the smart phone gaming app with a social conscience. It's named after China's Foxconn factory, where millions of iPhones are manufactured. Conditions at Foxconn may be so bad, there's concern that it drove 17 of its employees to commit suicide (one as recent as yesterday).
Szymczyk, a Miami resident, says "The idea behind this app is to balance out the information presented to you, keep you informed, and give you a chance to actually express your opinion to a company without disrupting your life. Nobody wants to give up their iPhone or Android in protest. You almost can't. But we're talking about our hard earned money paying for some CEO's castle while his workers are being methodically exploited. It's a serious issue and we're being duped. I'm hoping most people want to do something about it."
Like Lee said, Americans are hesitant to give up their beloved smart phones just because others may sleep inside 6x2 foot boxes or slave away at a factory for 18 hours a day or jump off a rooftop (Foxconn has since installed nets to catch any jumpers). We need our phones. But if we had a mobile app that would broadcast our dissatisfaction to the companies responsible for such deplorable conditions at the touch of our finger, well then, sign us up.
ILoveFoxConn is still in development as Lee raises funds to complete the project. Contribute here. We spoke to Lee about employee conditions and how he got the concept to turn social activism into a game.
Lee Doster, designcoder, Rafael Proenza, sound engineering, Tianjiao Guo, voice and localization.
New Times: How do you see the app working?
are two distinct parts to the app. The first is a range of games that
are designed around the story of last year's Apple/Foxconn fiasco. They
are casual and fun, but at the same time, a bit shocking in their
presentation since the subject matter isn't as random or abstract as say
flinging birds into buildings or slicing fruit with your finger.
Hopefully putting serious subjects into a fun setting will solidify
people into the subject matter.
The second part of the app is an RSS reader on worker's rights issues.
If the news is serious enough, there will be a way to petition Apple or
HTC or Foxconn directly from the app on that issue. It will fire off a
response to a company linked to the article. I feel everyone wins this
way. The workers, the companies, and the end user.
Why do you think it is important for people to know about Foxconn?
Apps are small, quick, and focused on a single purpose, and I realized that this wasn't just a characteristic of itself, but something that could be applied to ideas through the app. Instead of a wide-ranging news application, this is news on a particular subject with a way to share your opinion on it in the time frame of brushing your teeth or gassing your car.
What would you say to people who think you are taking these issues way too seriously?
Back in 2010, we all were serious and that is the only reason things changed. Apple asked for these changes on my behalf. Of course, we're a year through this and the fervor of the Foxconn suicides has died down. Most people have moved on to the next big story. So I suppose when I get a news alert today showing me how Apple and Foxconn haven't made good on their promises, I am taking the issue too serious relative to those who haven't read about it on their favorite blog. With ILoveFoxconn, I'm trying to keep just a bit of people's attention focused on the issues that haven't gone away in a fun and lighthearted manner.
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