Debt Machine

by belle

This work has been commented by 2 curator(s). Read the comments


Debt Machine


How to Enable the Debt Machine

Concept author(s)

Belinda Li

Concept author year(s) of birth


Concept author(s) contribution

All aspects

Concept author(s) Country


Friendly Competition

Debt. (2012)

Competition category

Visual communication practice

Competition subcategory


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

Griffith University / Queensland College of Art / Bachelor of Design

Check out the Debt. 2012 outlines of Memefest Friendly competition.

Description of idea

Describe your idea and concept of your work in relation to the festival outlines:

In a flash of lights and a ring of bells, poker machines across Australia are robbing problem gamblers of their money. Were it only an issue of money; what is echoed out as an after-effect of problem gambling is families being stripped of income, and loved ones being denied the good parents, children, siblings, lovers or friends that they deserve. Problem gambling is an addiction and poker machines are designed to addict; poker machines are designed for debt.

Recent attempts at intervention have been met with limited success. Independent-minded politicians striving to end the pokies debt cycle in the form of a mandatory pre-commitment reform bill faced fierce and vocal opposition from both the gaming lobby and other politicians. Instigating change is rarely easy, but it is made all the more difficult when political power and commercial profit are at stake for the deciding parties. The proposed bill failed to pass and the pokies industry continues to reap ill-gained profits from the vulnerable.

What emerges from studying the details of the reform debate is a parallel between the nature of the political machine that lead to the ultimate failure of the bill, and the repetitive motions of the poker machine. Each party has their place within the machine as a part that either enables or halts the cycle. Relationships with loved ones are commodified into things that you can bet with; things that can be lost. This work visualises the interrelationships of the opposing parties, consequently demonstrating the failure of Australia’s government to act in the interests of its people.

What kind of communication approach do you use?

This work is materialised in the form of an instructional manual, taking advantage of the medium’s often dry content to employ both literary and visual satire for social criticism. The metaphor of the machine is made explicit in the diagrams and illustrations. The manual is a portable size for ease of distribution, and doubles as a poster that when displayed can communicate the message to a broader audience.

What are in your opinion concrete benefits to the society because of your communication?

This work intends to harness the power of the individual. It creates an informed audience by opening people’s eyes to the negative influence of money and power. It encourages them to demand better of the leaders who supposedly represent their interests with the end goal of mobilising reform.

What did you personally learn from creating your submitted work?

I was not the most informed person in regard to current affairs previous to creating this work. That is not to say I was completely ignorant, but whilst researching the timeline of pokies reform, I was almost overwhelmed by the wealth of information surrounding just this single issue. This work emphasised to me what could be achieved with visual communication design. What was rewarding was finally understanding the complex relationships between the parties involved to be able to translate my understanding into visual content that even uninformed viewers could grasp.

Why is your work, GOOD communication WORK?

This work condenses a vast scope of information, utilising the potential of visual communication design to reach the largest audience possible with immediacy. It serves the purpose of fostering support for reform that would aid people such as problem gamblers who are unable to help themselves, shifting from the dominant messages the gaming industry sells us of consequence-free entertainment to a dialogue exploring the oft silenced predatory nature of the industry.

Where and how do you intent do implement your work?

Manuals are distributed as pocket-sized brochures free for viewers to take in selected locations or displayed as posters in areas with plenty of foot traffic. The manual and poster being made available online allows viewers to either save their own copies of the file, electronically forward it on, or print it out to make into physical copies.

Did your intervention had an effect on other Media. If yes, describe the effect? (Has other media reported on it- how? Were you able to change other media with your work- how?)

As this work has not yet been distributed, no other media has yet been affected.

Curators Comments

Tony Credland

As a very visual image of debt in bars and social clubs the slot machine is a good target and it would be interesting to see the reaction this gets from the public. Although well designed and humorous, it is a fine line between a good piece of work that engages and starts debate and that which speak down to the users of slot machines. Do you have any idea where this will fall?

Visually the work is interesting and strong but i wonder if it can compete with the visuals power of flashing lights and audio, would a glossier visual language more in tune with the machines and other advertising have been more successful?

There are good ideas and comments in the details of the text that show it can communicate on many levels. Although this is very specific in information to Australia, i can imagine the comparative reference in the UK.

Scott Townsend

I like this work in spite of the fact that it tends to be about parody. Part of it is that the author has taken us through a process and a kind of discussion about things, tho' a bit tongue in cheek. If the gambling machine is a kind of metaphor, I am a bit unclear about what it is a metaphor, for-? Is it about the current AUS gov? People's habits? Literally about sanctioned gambling?

Some of those issues resolved could make this highly effective- the graphic form and expressive typography are visually entertaining and nice and aggressive with their size form and contrast. Placed in a particular context with other graphic distractions, it could probably still make a visual impact on a viewer.