Isn't it time we aspired to a different set of values?
Taking the approach of objects as interactive essay, Simple Machines for the Digital Age is a collection of domestic contraptions that acknowledges, magnifies, and comments on the side effects of mainstream technology on our daily lives. Each contraption is designed to be both functional, engaging us more richly in the moment, and symbolic, prompting reflection and awareness.
The project came about due to a frustration with my own unhealthy compulsions around technology. It is my way of asking fellow designers and creators to be mindful of the things we create, to take responsibility of their long term effects, and to realize that things could be different. I’d like us to be mindful of the difference between designing for pleasure and designing for happiness.
A website with kits for sale is currently in the works. It’s purpose is to add a participatory element to the project by allowing people to live a piece of this message in their everyday life.
Present Shock, Douglas Rushkoff
Program or be Programmed, Douglas Rushkoff
In Praise of Slow, Carl Honore
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow, Interaction Design, and Contemporary Boredom, Nicolas Makelberge
Two recent events made me question my relationship with technology.
The first is related to my volunteer work at a senior home tutoring seniors about computers and the internet. Recently, I started teaching my 86-year-old student how to message their granddaughter on their iPad. What followed was five minutes of frustration — much of which was not her fault. She finally gave up and asked me to take over. I couldn’t help but feel responsible for this because I’m part of this generation that makes these things. I volunteer because I wanted to show how wonderful technology and the internet can be for everyone. But this incident made me wonder whether our fast, tech-focused lives have become our blinders, narrowing our perspective so much that we forget about the people whose lives don’t revolve around technology.
The second event is related to the power and cell outage during the 2012 hurricane. I am typically a late sleeper and late riser. But during that week, I had no choice but to lay down when the sun set, and rise when the sun rose, as it was our only source of light. It fascinated me to feel that dependent on nature. But it also made me realize why we don’t feel as connected anymore now that we all have our own personal suns. The entire experience demonstrated to me the fundamental ways technology changes us.
In summary, as I was trying to augment my older student’s life with technology, I realized during the hurricane that I had too much of it for my own good. I love technology, but I believe that it should always be in the service of our well-being. I made Simple Machines as an outlet for my frustrations, to serve as a reminder for myself, and as a way to gain back the control I felt I’d lost. On a larger scale, I took thesis as an opportunity to frame and explore my own values and philosophies as a creator.