This post is somewhat inspired by Tiffany’s post (Balance of Life and Technology) and Zan’s post (Dunne and Raby’s ideal of Design inimical to Capitalism?). It is very much a rant, mainly because I don’t know how else to write. I will also paraphrase Dunne and Raby and Zan and Tiffany, so there is always the possibility of misrepresentation!

I agree with what Tiffany initially felt about the Dunne and Raby reading: It is dark; possibly a Tim Burton movie. Their view is extremely negative and they show very little faith in designers and consumers. “Now, a younger generation doesn’t dream, it hopes: it hopes that we will survive, that there will be water for all, that we will be able to feed everyone, that we will not destroy ourselves…”

I almost feel thier view on the future (should we not change drastically) is similar (although darker) to the future depicted in Idiocracy. In Idiocracy, we see a world destroyed by the consumer mentality. Basically, their society is totally apathetic to their dire condition they find themselves in. Which is similar to what Dunne and Raby (hence know as D&R) suggest we are like! And to an extent, I can see that. Tiffany’s example of sleep texting seems like a good fit.

D&R suggest that the only way out is to change our design and social attitude and values.

What I want to argue is that our values, attitudes and everything else for the matter is in fact always changing. On top of that, I will argue that D&R are underestimating the unpredictability of unforeseen circumstances.

Changing Values

I want to argue that D&R are ignoring history. As designers we are aware that our field has already been through three different phases (Rogers). Our values have in fact changed. We have gone from efficient button pushing, to feminist HCI. Are they really suggesting this is not a change? Or are they suggesting we need another push? What about cultural history? Aren’t they ignoring that as well? Feminism, the sexual revolution, globalization are all examples of value changes. I am trying to say that the notion of value changing is not all that new or novel. It has happened in our field for a decade or so and even longer in our culture. But with change in values comes a lot of unforeseen circumstances.

Underestimating the unpredictability of unforeseen circumstances

We once dreamed about living in a connected world. While we haven’t connected our toasters to the internet yet (not that I am aware off), I believe we are already living in that imagined world. We dreamed of communicators and in fact created them! While we may not have speculated on all aspects of this lifestyle, I challenge that we could not have predicted “Sleep-texting” as a possible consequence. You cannot predict this side effect mainly because nothing we ever created before was either this engaging or addictive. Certain things just have to undergo rigorous testing before they show themselves. These things most certainly cannot be speculated.  So speculating and arguing thoroughly is sort of pointless. It reminds me of usability testing and how it used to be a rigorous scientific process. I am not saying we do not need rigor when designing, I am saying we need more than just speculating as it can be a considerable time waste, especially since there will be circumstances that you did not design for or even think about.

Basically, I think D&R are too overly optimistic in the power of a committee sitting and speculating, while somehow being negative towards the future should we not change. And I feel they do not offer anything new or concrete to actually help us move forward. But then again they may be attempting to just bring our attention to the issue. What do you guys think?

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