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Lets Design Human Existence - Materializing Morality at What Design Can Do may 24th

15 May 2017

Reflective discussions on technology issues ...

... tend to lag behind the technological developments. In time, but also in depth. Politicians, artists, philosophers seldom engage in them. As a result, disruptive technologies including robots, clones, drones, and genetic modification enter the public domain as artefacts that are neutral by themselves. But technologies not only have material consequences, as the climate change demonstrates. Technologies also influence what is deemed normal, what is seen as a problem and what as a solution. As a result, technologies also shape how we act and what we think. Though they appear neutral, technologies actually are the end result of an extensive chain of decisions stemming from various ideas, and worldviews. These value systems, however, do not appear on the radar. Engaging with technologies as though they are neutral artefacts is passing the 'responsible use' buck to the user. This reinforces the underlying value system that gave birth to these technologies.

 Enter Johan Melse: Let's consider what that means and discuss with a philosopher!

In a What Design Can Do session we will dig deeper into the implicit morality and concepts behind technologies and their conception. Philosopher Johan Melse will provoke the participants with questioning thoughts on the origins, production and consequences of technologies. The participants will engage in a Socratic and cooperative dialogue. We are going to stimulate critical thinking on designing technology!

Johan Melse claims, that technologies are vehicles of values. You as a creative should persistently ask questions about the morals in the materials: The values incorporated in technological solutions. You will also have to train your ability to immediately understand who is defining the problem, and who is left out of that process. You will walk away from this session with a more profound insight into the interplay between norms and values and technology.

Johan Melse will touch upon the work of Peter Paul Verbeek and Nynke Tromp who have been proposing a redefinition of the role of the designer towards deliberately affecting socially responsible behaviour. In doing so, designers no longer can hide behind the needs and wishes of the consumer; instead, they have to take responsibility as “shapers” of society.

Creatives, think about it! That implies a shift away from a user-centered approach towards a society-centered one. Because of that shift, designers no longer design things, or even user-thing relations, but rather human-world relations. Johan Melse puts a huge responsibility on the shoulders of creatives: Designing technology is Designing Human beings and human existence.