Saturday, 10 November 2012

Post-design scenarios 2

This post continues from the previous. I didn't mean to take such a long break between posts, but I've been blogging elsewhere, doing fieldwork abroad, teaching... and getting a little into winter hibernation mode. 

With these vignettes I was inspired by a Petterson & Boks paper that I found in one of the SCORE! network event Proceedings, which led me to Debra Lilley's work on designing behaviour. Since then, combining knowledge on product-service eco-efficiency with insight on user experience, consumer research on pro-environmental behaviours, and change management (and even transition management) has become standard in Design-for-Sustainability research and education. 

Also since writing this, I've been picking up small, intriguing signals related to the future of shopping malls: a site for the maker community in Cory Doctorow's novel Makersdocumentation by photographers, turning malls into vegetable gardens, and 100 other uses for a dead mall. Combined with recent news about unsold consumer goods piling up in China, it'll be interesting to see if these developments are solely linked to the current financial crisis (which in itself is probably the 'new normal') or if we are really seeing a shift in consumerist values. 

There have also been signals about food security, such as this one about 3D printing meat, and mainstreaming of p2p initiatives that allow people to contribute time, money and/or skills to projects. Brickstarter for instance is just at the concept stage, but it seems to take the best of Kickstarter, Kiva and Timebanks in a nice package. 

And of course on the concept of knotworking, see the work by Yrjö Engeström

Scenario 3: The Pyramid

Pepi was daydreaming, wandering down his local superstore’s massive aisles, when he came to and wondered what he was doing there. Oh, yes, the new shipment of Shifting Wallpaper. The price was much higher than he expected, but still cheap enough not to be a sacrifice. He quickened his pace, as his CorClock was constantly measuring employee metrics and work performance – and he was measuring a big fat nothing at the moment. That could mean a warning and a pay dock, if he didn’t hurry.

Pepi is a specialist eco-scripter, meaning that he’s responsible for ‘scripting’ the physical and electronic controls that limit user behaviour. (This could mean, for example, a physical limit on how far you can press a lever, or a subtle semiotic design detail that worked psycho-physiologically to encourage or discourage a certain action.) His work used to entail much more eco-feedback and facilitation of ‘sustainable behaviour’. He was, in fact, so good at his job that people using his products wouldn’t even notice that their behaviour was being steered. Nowadays, though, he works mainly with military and big business contracts, usually involving resource control. In fact, some of his longer-term clients have hinted that his feedback mechanisms could be a little more ‘punitive’, especially in circumstances involving a breach of electricity rations. His work is starting to make him feel uncomfortable, but he finds himself with little choice.

Luckily he has a good circle of sympathetic friends down at the bar, where they get together nearly every evening for a joint and a pint and whatever else is on offer. As very few people are currently allowed to leave the country, the Travel Simulator has been a popular bar game, and despite his misgivings about his employer, he’s proud that the Simulator is one of its products. He knows the machine, like all of the company’s products, not only collects data on consumer preferences, but uses subliminal promotion techniques to push its wares, in ways that were once even seen as illegal. But – what the hey. If he didn’t work for The Cor, he’d have housing and health service supply problems like ol’ Smithy there, who insists on working on service design projects for a tiny company and therefore may not be able to send his kid to a proper school. 

Leaving the shopping-leisure complex, he strolled back to the office – which was a rather odd design of space, since the company had established his department in a former big box retail outlet in the sprawl of the suburbs, to be near employees’ homes. His team was also a bit odd, a range of extreme specialists who often worked with nanotechnological body organ design. With this current political focus on security, however, they had found themselves with Pepi in the consumer-infra unit, redesigning the eco-efficiency of nearly obsolete product-service systems such as home food- and space-cooling equipment. And whew! Were they bitter. Pepi tried to avoid them as much as was professionally possible. Maybe that’s why he was shopping this morning. Any excuse to get away from that office….

Scenario 4: The Wiki

Jolo awoke with a start. The food alarm had gone off, meaning that there would be a delivery of fresh food to the market at 7 am. If she ran, she might just get something… wonder what it is, vegetables? She hadn’t seen real meat, not to mention taste it, for quite a few years. Well, if she didn’t get anything fresh she’d just have to manage with the biochemical stuff. At least they were getting better with product development; textures had improved vastly over the last couple of years. And an even better development: the quality of the air had improved so much that few people bothered with facemasks anymore.

On the way to the market she checked her JobManager, where she could see her list of current clients, projects, and deadlines, as well as new projects in the network pipeline. She noticed that a previous client had specially requested her to work on a new edutainment platform; it fit in the JobManager Gantt, so she accepted it and refused the other work for today. The NGO app had, as always, a huge list of jobs as well… hmm, something interesting in South Africa. Modulising and code chunking Citizen Needs for a water management system. That wouldn’t take too long, and it would give her a few LETS points in the KnotWork system.

At the market, despite the swarms of people, things were calm and orderly. Jolo was rapt to receive three real carrots and two pea pods. The peas she ate immediately on the spot, even crunching down the pods. Heaven! There were heaps of people there she knew, and she spent a longer time socialising than she’d intended – but eventually she found her way to the subway heading for one of her client’s offices.

Once there she dealt with a few module problems – a few end-users were being a little over-ambitious with their orders and she needed to loop in a special component from another supplier. While she was contacting the suppliers’ inventories she checked the news feed. Oops! Prices of lithium were up again – that would definitely mean a lot of cancelled orders. There had been a boom in bio-based material development lately. She would have to make sure to pencil in a meeting with her buddy Ernest, a bioelectronic specialist, in order to get up to spec. Maybe he could lead a training session at her pro-craft guild sometime next month.

She finished up the module coding, sent a few quick messages to her favourite end-users, and clocked out. On to the next client – luckily in the next building….

Lilley, D., Bhamra, T., Lofthouse, V. (2006) “Towards sustainable use: An exploration of designing for behavioural change”, Design and semantics of form and movement DeSForM Conference Proceedings

Pettersen, I. N. & Boks, C. (2008). “User-centred Design Strategies for Sustainable Patterns of Consumption”, 2nd Conference of the Sustainable Consumption Research Exchange (SCORE!) Network “Sustainable Consumption and Production: Framework for Action”, 10 – 11 March 2008, Brussels, Belgium. Proceedings: Refereed Sessions I-II, Chapter 6, pp. 107-27.

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