Wealth and dignity are different from a Klout score. They are instant signals, not states of being. It is the latitude granted by the hysteresis—the staying power—of wealth that translates into practical freedom.
Divorced from the contemplation of a humanistic information economy, Lanier’s above thought about dignity and wealth still has immediate resonance. It connects freedom to wealth and privilege to security, while controversely acknowledging that a social media score, synonymous with social power (Klout) provides just the opposite in the long term. Klout is an online tool for measuring one’s social media presence. Anecdotally, I have a Klout account and whenever I login the front page shows a heading above a line graph that I always mis-read as saying, “Nervous Breakdown.” Yes, some part of my mind knows this actually reads, “Network Breakdown”, but the anxiety inducing, abstracted line graph of power always flips an unwanted switch in my brain. Did the makers of this website imagine that when they designed it? Did they care? As the Klout score’s only purpose is to create a kind of manic frenzyed dependency on a returning to the trough of data collecting social media websites, it wouldn’t surprize me if it was a kind of double entendre, or intentional subliminal message.
By examining this micro-instance of Klout, I begin to understand what is wrong with its design and intention. As Lanier point out, Klout is not creating dignity or power for anyone, except perhaps for the people getting paid for creating it. Approaching design as a means to an often destructive ends is not the correct approach, but its a good start. I want to create a more conscious and self aware design methodology, which creates mindfulness. Knowing that often the best design is created out of examining what not to do. I will avoid the manipulative and emotionally destructive user behaviour as is encouraged by Klout by maintaining impact awareness within my work. I will strive to make work that is utterly self aware, and so becomes aware of the cultural and societal forces influencing it.
Cultural and generational consciousness is vital to my practice in designing with awareness. Sherry Turkle places the Net in a notably mindful generational context.
Because we grew up with the Net, we assume that the Net is grown-up. We tend to see it as a technology in its maturity. But in fact, we are in early days. There is time to make corrections. It is above all, the young who need to be convinced that when it comes to our networked life, we are still at the beginning of things.
- Sherry Turkle
Having the long view of immediate or close technologies is vital. Thinking through all worst case scenarios, as well as you can and designing with that in mind is another part of the puzzle.
The net is not innate to me. I remember when my family got a computer and the internet surfaced. The computers I “grew up” with were very different from the ones we have today. I imagine this kind of transitional perspective is helpful when imagining both analog and digital design solutions as well as in questioning technological modes that others just accept as standard. This inside/outside perspective is similar to that of the ethnographer who is observing the culture, who he or she may have a link to, but is trying to look at it objectively. If I start by assuming that I am a product of my culture, both economic and creative and as such am capable of designing for them, I can move with intuition tempered by consciousness.
Moving the theme of consciousness further, I will emphasize risk versus reward within my design work. As Tony Fry points out, “Implied in the position outlined is that designers place the current needs of the market in second place to the politico-ethical project of gaining sustain-ability” by chasing the carrot of commercial success, designers often throw sustainability overboard when making products, services, or digital devices. Such defuturing behaviour is ubiquitous within the current market, but is causing disastrous repercussions for our planet's health and to our environmental safety. I will weigh the stakes and repercussions of my design choices, even if it means lowering the return for myself or client. This is what it means to design with integrity.
Taking that one step further, I hope to help to use design to affect consciousness raising. I will never forget that we live in a nuclear, networked, and controlled age. It is our job as designers to disarm that the mechanisms of that paradigm and not to prop it up by allowing people to fall deeper into the simulation of safety.
Entry into the atomic club, so amusingly named, very rapidly removes (like syndicalisation for the working world) any inclination towards violent intervention. Responsibility, control, censorship, self-deterrence always increases faster than the forces or weapons at our disposal: this is the secret of the social order. Thus the very possibility of paralysing a whole country with the flick of a switch makes it impossible that electrical engineers will ever utilise this weapon: the entire myth of the revolutionary and total strike collapses at the very moment when the means to so are available - but alas, exactly because the means to do so are available. This is deterrence in a nutshell.
Baudrillard published this in 1983, but it still rings true. The fear of disaster deters us from acting at all, as we are living in a time that denies consequences while packaging risk and sells it to the highest bidder. The stasis of the age which lead to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis in the US and wikileaks is contagious. It is vital that we designers defend against futility and embrace our role as future makers, earth healers, thought leaders. We must create a conscious, self aware design methodology that weighs risk versus reward. To dream a new future and then bring it into being is always a risk. As creative problem solvers who shape the future, it is our duty to wrestle the impossible questions of civic and societal good within a nuclear, networked world.
Imagine the world with a little more heart than the one we currently inhabit. Designers would teach rather than pander and products would manage needs rather than create them. If we can look past ourselves and sculpt a future better than the one we were handed, we might just stand a chance.
Baudrillard, Jean. Simulations. New York City, N.Y., U.S.A.: Semiotext(e), 1983. 73. Print.
Clarke, Alison J. "Chapter Two." Design Anthropology: Object Culture in the 21st Century. Wien: Springer, 2011. 36. Print.
Lanier, Jaron. Who Owns the Future? New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. 365. Print.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic, 2011. 294. Print.