Reading Response 6 / Shelbi Howard

Design holds purpose beyond styling the look and feel of objects. Design should not only inform the final aesthetic for consumer appeal, but have a hand in determining the impact that the product or message has on the future of humanity. As can be seen with the K-Cup fiasco, designers who do not consider the system that the outcome of their work lives within can have a huge negative impact on the future of the planet and society. A strong designer is capable of owning and making ethical decisions about the future of material culture through the utilization of multiple design disciplines’ practices including the ability to analyze: Futures, fiction, speculation, criticism, provoking users, creating discourse, interrogation, probing, and play.

This is especially important as technology becomes further imbued in the products we make. Designers are not only impacting consumer culture but the networks and languages that our products use to communicate with us and one another. More than ever before, new languages of interaction from gesture to voice are creating new paradigms for design to influence. These emerging horizons in technology and products are no longer influencing the world around us, but building a new technology society composed of non-human users, such as sensors and other machines, in addition to our own human impact. Designing for products and systems is becoming infinitely more complex while also becoming more imperative that we are considering the outcome of our actions.

Now is the time to begin questioning what society not only will look like in 10, 25, or 50 years but to determine how designers can influence a better future to avoid the dystopian tech-controlled hellscape that sci-fi has predicted. By criticizing, future-casting, and speculating through design methodologies that focus beyond immediate consumerism, designers can create the dialogue and draw attention to dire issues for our future well-being. From the ominous “black stack” metaphor of our future technology megastructure, we now not only have to worry about the selling potential of technical products but the access, legislation, and safety of the system that contains that technology.

Not only our products, but the systems they compose are becoming smarter, larger, and infinitely more complex than we can anticipate. Design has the potential to influence the concept, structure, and end point of the growing connectivity web if we assume the responsibility of questioning and strategizing our actions now before it becomes over-complex and detrimental. Through the practice of discursive design, that analyzes the material world in this way, we are able to take a seat at the table and assume responsibility for the products we add to the growing infrastructure of our future.


Note: I read The Black Stack by Benjamin H. Bratton as my optional reading for this assignment.