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Growing Technology

RSS By: Ben Potter,

Technology editor Ben Potter brings you the latest in technology news, and how you can apply it to farming.


The No-Win Cotton-Pickin’ App

May 08, 2013

 At AgWeb, we spend a fair amount of time searching for and reviewing useful mobile apps for on-farm use. Some are great, some are merely OK. I stumbled across an app today that defies rating, unless there’s a category for "incredibly frustrating but makes a single point incredibly well."

The app is called "My Cotton Picking Day" and comes from a project called Game The News. Designers were inspired by an article they read in The Guardian that detailed the plight of child laborers in Uzbekistan, some of whom are subjected to intense cotton picking quotas of up to 50kg (more than 100 lbs) per day.

"This is about forced labor – the kids are taken out of school and forced to work," says app designer Tomas Rawlings.

So Rawlings and his colleagues set out to replicate the experience of picking cotton by hand.

"What we wanted to do with this game was to give a glimpse into the monotony of that job," he says.

cottonpickThe Atlantic reports the gaming experience as thus:

"There are two buttons. Both say pick cotton. And as you do, a bit of cotton -- between one and two grams -- goes into your pack. You can press the buttons quickly, but there is a short pause as your hand reaches into the pack. The fastest strategy is to switch from left to right button as fast as possible.

But once you've figured out the optimal strategy for speed, you realize: You will have to hit these buttons 30,000 times or something in order to fulfill your quota! It would take, the designers estimate, eight straight hours of hitting the buttons to "win" the game."

It’s not a game that’s meant to be won – or even played, really – but it does drive home an important point about a social justice issue. Israel, Australia and the United States are the only countries that harvest their entire cotton crop mechanically, according to the International Cotton Advisory Committee. Everywhere else, adults and oftentimes children pick at least some of the crop by hand.

So the next time you step into your tractor or combine, stop for a moment and be thankful for all the modern amenities at your fingertips, and also be thankful for the groups pushing for awareness and change to improve farmers’ lives elsewhere in the world.

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