28 September 2017

The Event! Designing Human Futures

Dr. Paul Hartley came to McMaster last night to give us a talk about Reassessing our (i.e. Humans') Relationship with Technology.

The talk was extremely useful in that it provided attendees with an 'archaeology' of technology.
What do I mean by archaeology? Archaeology, in a Foucaudian sense, examines "discursive traces and orders left by the past in order to write a 'history of the present'. In other words archaeology is about looking at history as a way of understanding the processes that have led to what we are today" (Clare O'Farrell for Michel-Foucault.com, 2007).

Dr. Hartley's main premise of the talk was to reassess how we think about our relationship with technology because much of what we think about technology and the future, is steeped in mythology of the past. If we think technology will 'save' us by making life easier, that it necessarily drives (good) change, or that technologies will bring the human race to the pinnacle of progress - these narratives are not new - in fact, he traced their lineage over centuries - and they do not necessarily have to dictate our future relationship.

Dr. Hartley spoke of the importance of using a human-centered (what he called the Human Futures Framework) to re-articulate this relationship in future design and innovation projects.

In so doing, he gave the audience 5 steps to this process (i.e. the framework):
1. Deconstruct - what you know about your project/product/problem
2. Observe - for the purpose of building a better picture of the context
3. Understand - analyzing collected data within the context
4. Speculate - identify possible future pathways (of design, of interest, of intent, etc.)
5. Activate - generate next steps and understand the implication of the investigation.

In all, Dr. Hartley's talk helped frame our understanding how the technology - as we understand today - came to be. It also helped attendees recognize what steps they could take to use a human futures approach (where the human bookends the technology - as a hybrid form that enables humans instead of any other scary apocalyptic scenarios where robots take over for humans) in our everyday design practices.