flopbox

resume liberation as an act of protest

Duration

3 months, Oct - Dec 2020

Team

Cherry Wu, Kartikye Mittal,
Pancham Yadav, Hannah Lee

Methods

Mechanism Design, Physical Prototyping,
Coding Hardware/ Electronics, Arduino,
Graphic/ Visual Design

Flopbox is a public interactive that aims to break the implicit social contracts involved in the recruitment process using “The Resume” – a cultural symbol of the job searching experience

For this project, I led the art direction and designed the brand identity of Flopbox.
I also organized the campaigns and built the machine for deployment.

The Context

The recruiting process for many fields has become a convoluted process with students applying to hundreds of jobs and hearing back from a small fraction. The entire system gives the majority of the power to the companies and exploits students looking for jobs. At universities, this is clearly seen at tech talks where companies provide food and take stacks of resumes from students, most of which end up in the shredder. As a response, our goal is to design an alternative experience to critique the lack of transparency in the recruiting process and the resulting anxiety and stress through a symbolic sacrifice of “The Resume”.

Our Response

Our goal was to reimagine the resume drop process and design this significant interaction into a provocation. With Flopbox, a resume shredder, we aimed to first provoke the attendees of career talks by shredding their resume as a mirrored experience of handling their resume to the recruiter to highlight the imbalance of the process.

Additionally, we also created an opportunity for students to liberate their resumes as an act of protest. When a participant submits a resume to the machine, their resume will be shredded immediately, and the participant will then receive a printed receipt that captures their inattentive moment with the text “rejections don’t define me”.
This output intends to commemorate the very moment in which they liberate their resumes, and make the experience more personal and provoking.

The final working prototype deployed in Barrows Hall and Moffitt Library. Students voluntarily shredded their resumes and were encouraged by the personal note with “Rejections don't define me because…”.

The Branding

To curate a more defining experience, we branded ourselves as a company – Flopbox that offers an alternative to resume drop or liberation service for students. As a critique to tech corporates’ notorious recruitment practices, we manipulated the existing brand system of Dropbox, a well-recognized Bay Area tech company as a representative.

The redesigned logo demonstrates the process of a resume being shredded, which can be symbolically interpreted as the process of defining a candidate’s identity by data. The strategic use of tone also mimics that of professional development slogans of the respective companies, which reinforces the satirical nature of the project.

Bold and satirical event graphics created to promote the Resume Liberation Party on social media.

The Making

The machine is built using plywood and electronics, including Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Photocell, Pi Camera, and an Adafruit Thermal Receipt Printer. The primary constraints during the making process were the trade-off between the space we had available to use all our electronics, the shredder, and the printer. We intended to create a professional platform that could stand on its own in the field while being able to hold the weight of the paper shredder.

Subsequently, we carefully measured the ideal size of the box to make it appear intrusive but approachable to people of all heights. When casing the paper shredder at the top of the machine, where participants drop their resumes off, we also measured out an opening that would allow the resume to be easily fed into the shredder without jamming. During the process of assembling the machine, we encountered difficulties attaching the camera at a feasible angle to properly capture the participant’s face – to make sure that the product accommodated users with different heights and standing distances.

Getting the orientation right was important to the success of the receipt printing component. As a solution, we tilted the camera at an angle and carefully optimized the field of view to capture almost all faces, with the exception of those standing up too close. Lastly, we decided to paint the box black to mimic the black box metaphor of the recruitment deliberation process. However, the participant is able to witness the “behind the scene” process of their resume being shredded through the acrylic back-piece, which adds to the irony of the dehumanizing operation.

       FRONT PANEL + LOGO                              SIDE PANELS                                      EVENT LABEL PANELS                                                              ARDUINO CIRCUIT SCHEMATIC

The Deployment

We deployed Flopbox in two locations, catering to different subsets of the same population. Our primary goal was to A/B test the various tones and narratives around our product and to explore the two dimensions in which it can be employed as an act of protest. We also reflected on ways that acts of protest can be conducted in satirical yet light-hearted ways.

Flopbox was disguised under the EA brand and positioned in the hallway leading to the event to provoke the participants and organizers of the talk. Over the course of the evening, we were successful in making the machine look like an official resume drop as multiple attendees assumed that EA had installed the piece. While a number of people were convinced to unwittingly “submit” their resumes and caught off guard by the unexpected outcome, a number of attendees came back to shred more of their resumes. Ultimately, the results revealed the discontentment of students towards the networking experience and their perception of their resume as a tool.

Following the first event, we hosted the “Resume Liberation Party” and deployed Flopbox in the heavily trafficked Moffitt Library. With a more proactive approach to denounce the recruiting culture and the notion of “The Resume” as a reductive tool of one’s identity, we intended for the experience to give students a platform to open up conversations about rejections. Most participants who completed the cycle of interaction expressed their appreciation for the sadistically delightful experience that allowed them to share vulnerably with strangers. Ultimately, Flopbox created a safe space for attendees to let go of their frustration and encourage one another with their stories of defeat.

“Our relationship moves forward in motion
Tick. tock.
Like the delicate forming of a pottery piece. Each layer of interdependence builds a firm wall”

The Takeaway

For this project, we believe that understanding symbols like the resume can help individuals speculate on alternative ways of seeing and experiencing the recruitment process. In other words, the resume is a means to help individuals reexamine the constructed myths of professionalism defined by the industry. Consequently, the act of shredding the piece of paper becomes a conduit between oppressed and liberated, allowing for a satirical experience to become a legitimate form of protest.

Meet the Flopbox Team!

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