Will Technological Innovation Eliminate the Perceived Necessity for Social Change?
Posted by Plish on May 12, 2010
Conferences are great in that they make you think.
Today was no different. While attending the Design Research Conference in Chicago today I heard references to technology being the great equalizer. Those specific words weren’t used, but during one case study looking at the redesign of a hearing aid, an elderly gentleman noted how when he uses current hearing aid technologies, their designs don’t disguise the fact he’s losing his hearing and in fact draw attention to it. The result is that he feels marginalized by society. The solution, obviously, was a better designed hearing aid that utilized really cool technology that didn’t draw attention to itself but yet made the hearer’s life easier.
First, let me say that there’s nothing wrong with utilizing technology to make the lives of the elderly easier. But the above case study, and another mention of the ‘saving value’ of technology yesterday, got me thinking.
So, I did a Google search of “technology” and “save us” and the two phrases together bring up 934,000 hits. Apparently, I’m not the only one seeing a pattern.
Again, I’m not against technology at all, but if we rely on technology to come to the rescue of our designs, then aren’t we missing the point?
The point is well articulated in the following quote from here:
…(A)ll of technological optimism can be summed up in one desire: The desire not to have to change any of our current behaviors. And, yet it is our behavior that most of all needs changing.
That’s the crux of the issue – behaviors.
Here we are, innovating for a better world but at the same time, by extensively using technology we tacitly agree that the world and the people around us aren’t going to change their behaviors. So, we use technology to make it less painful for those marginalized by society so they can live in a world of people who are cold. Something doesn’t seem right here.
Now, to be fair, we’re talking about designing devices, so the design project’s charter does not include designing a better society per se. But, this doesn’t mean that using technology to create a buffer against the indifference of the world doesn’t raise questions like:
If we get efficient at palliating social stigmas through technology, will we reach a cultural tipping point where the desire to improve one’s self is no longer felt as a need because everyone around us seems ok?
Is that an acceptable situation? Is this a real possibility? What could we do to prevent it from happening if it is?
Why does IDEO’s approach to design thinking and Tim Brown’s definition below have to include technology as a given?
“Design thinking is an approach that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods for problem solving to meet people’s needs in a technologically feasible and commercially viable way. In other words, design thinking is human-centered innovation.”
Does the definition for human centered innovation have to include the necessity of technology?
What do you think?
This entry was posted on May 12, 2010 at 1:28 am and is filed under Authenticity, Case Studies, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Human Rights, innovation, Life Stages, love, Social Networking, Society, The Human Person. Tagged: changing culture, Design, design thinking, IIT Design Research Conference, innovation, social innovation, The Human Person. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.