Barsenberg ImmuniToys

Are modern lifestyles making us sick? This question is subject to much debate. The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ argues that diseases like asthma and allergies are partly caused by too little exposure to diverse environments challenging our immune systems when we grow up.

This project explores where current trajectories might lead us and leaves it to the beholder to reflect about whether or not these futures are desirable.

Urbanisation, digitalisation and a cultural shift towards over-sanitation all have alarming side effects.

City-based life is lacking diversity in microorganisms and germs. Computer based systems allow us to learn without attending a classroom and to live our lives indoors. The use of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer and over-protective parenting can be commonly observer and are perhaps catalysed by media depictions of bacteria and disease.

There are promising new ideologies in medicine, like evolutionary medicine, a field looking to learn from natural evolutionary health mechanics, like the symbiosis with parasites found in certain African tribes. However, will todays consumers, used to remote controlled gadgetry with sleek hardware adopt such products?

A cuddly toy that exposes children to bacteria and microorganisms when they play with it.
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A monitor gadget to keep in touch with your symbiotic gastro-intestinal parasites.
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A device that mimics natural bacteria spreading in virtual learning environments.
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Winner of RSA Design Directions 09/10: Body and Mind

This project was awarded by the Royal Society of Arts. From the judging panel:

“The judging panel found Martin’s use of design as a medium through which to ask questions that challenge some of the implications of cultural and social behaviours, one that showed courage and imagination. They liked the bold, confrontational nature of his approach and the manner in which he had identified a problem and taken a dark, yet striking approach to highlight its potential, ultimate conclusion.”

2009-2010, Ravensbourne

Additional resources:

Project Backgrounder (PDF)


Newspaper BILD Stuttgart (JPG)

Newspaper Schwäbisches Tagblatt (JPG)

– Radio interview, Hit Radio Antenne 1