Dear Jonas and Ali,
As I wrote in my note to Keith, it’s my view that Don (and Francois) raise serious issues. The problems to which the two of you point are quite real. I agree, in part, with both of you. That’s one reason I haven’t yet offered my comments. All forms of design take place in such fields as manufacturing, urban planning, computing, and all of these are embedded in a large and problematic context.
This makes a short reply difficult, and it is why I am still thinking.
Even so, I can’t dismiss Don’s article as trivial. The question of human-centered design is quite reasonable, and it involves the issues you raise. If we do not take these issues into consideration, we also fail to consider the future of humanity. Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics, recently wrote a piece in the New York Times titled, “Earth Will Survive. We May Not.”
Human-centered design must attend to environmental issues if it is also to serve human goals.
It is easy to co-opt any genuine concern. One may deploy any responsible term to evil ends. That does not make the concern wrong. Anything can be turned in this way from its original meaning. Our choice must either be to think deeply to ask whether anything is possible, or simply to give up.
Victor Papanek pointed to some of these issues nearly half a century ago — yet here we are, Jonas, Ali, myself, working as design professors.
Addressing these challenges is difficult. If I we believe that nothing useful can be done, no matter how difficult the challenge, then our default position is a kind of cynicism. That's like middle managers in tobacco companies, soft drink companies, or banks. Many of them know that the business in which they work is destroying the world. People in that kind of position find some way to justify working in jobs that they believe will ultimately cause great damage.
If I were to believe that I could do nothing to improve the situation, I’d simply walk away from design research and doctoral education in design to enjoy the rest of my life doing something pleasant rather than feel like a cynic. I’d leave my position at Tongji University, I’d resign from journal boards, I’d relinquish my memberships, and let go of all the rest.
One reason I like Don’s books is that they offer the prospect of design that serves people rather than simply packaging things or making them look better to sell more of them. Does every designer do this? No. Do some designers do this? Yes.
I still plan to comment on Don’s article. Perhaps I will reach the conclusion that we can do nothing. If so, that will end my involvement in design.
That might not be bad. My family has been urging me to retire so that they can enjoy life with me instead of watching me read manuscripts, write editorial notes, and occasionally respond to a post on the PhD-Design list.
Ali Ilhan wrote:
Just a small side note, but I find the extra emphasis on “human” a little problematic. Through technology or human or whatever centered design(s) we made a lot of damage to large scale systems around the world, and in my humble opinion we need a little less human centeredness to counter this tendency.
And I agree with what Jonas said, neo-liberalism co-opts everyhting so quicky (i.e. sustainable design, human-centered design etc.) so I am really hopeless about creating ethical alternatives.
to be quite frank: I find Don´s lengthy lament a bit trivial and even naïve.
How can one expect „human-centeredness“ in an era of ever accelerated consumerism, driven by the perverse „logic“ of globalized finance capitalism?
In this context „human-centered“ design isn’t much more than a hollow marketing buzzword. There is simply no time and no money for serious human-, or even social-centeredness in professional design.
Ken Friedman, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/
Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| Email [log in to unmask] | Academia http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman | D&I http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn
PhD-Design mailing list <[log in to unmask]>
Discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design
Subscribe or Unsubscribe at https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/phd-design