Just because we can, doesn't mean we should : Alternative modernity.

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by Manikandan Hk on Sunday, February 1, 2015

Section
Design

Session type
Debate

Technical level
Intermediate

Objective

The question of technology today is not what can be done.
But what we want to do?
Would mobile phones look any different if a Buddhist monk were to make them?

Description

Think “Modern” and we think laptops, tablets, mobile phones, Facebook, pacemaker etc…
Each of that gadget has rules working - a logic that someone embedded in it

Who was that someone?

Would mobile phones look any different if a Buddhist monk were to make them?
And would we be any different if we used the mobile phone designed by the Buddhist monk?
If so, then the question of technology is no longer simply what can be done, but who do we want to be ?

To that there are usually 2 responses.
One that says, “We want to be modern! yay! “
Another that sees mobiles as corrupting and goes into a tizzy over some romantic notions of indian culture.
But both of these extremes are no good for the future…

Would there be an alternative modernity?
One that neither blindly mimics technologies and their logic of the west, nor rejects them, taking us back to some form of primitivism.

The answer has to be co-created.
Lets talk and find out.


Whats the Larger philosophical discourse? It raises an awareness about the values that are coded in design. All design decisions are basically value choices. For example, blackberry is based on the value of always connected for work. This seems as a ‘logic’ natural to its designers and eventually, owing to their influence, even hegemony, a logic adopted as natural by other societies that may not have upheld these values.

At some level, looking at design for developing societies, these values of developed societies are often adopted as ‘natural logic’ of development, consciously or unconsciously. For example, computerisation of information may favour the logic of efficiency over the logic of human relationships, where the act of exchanging information between people is an act of community.

A simpler example could be, in designing a software, we tend to think of storing information as files and folders as the natural & the most efficient way. What if the users of this software have a different perspective to way they organise and use information in their daily life. As the design world embraces user centered design, can we find a way to include these values also into design? This is where it becomes interesting. Usually, there are two kinds of responses to such interventions - one that paints technologies of the West as utopian interventions and the other that has dystopian fears about them - a primitivist response , with a romantic idea of ‘local culture’ to be ‘preserved’.

However, there can be an alternative path to design - which neither blindly mimics western technologies and their design logic, nor over romanticises the indigenous and is anti west, but is a conversation between the local and the outside. [ #designing for the context ]

How does it become relevant to TGP audience?

Design is becoming highly democratic. Modern tools and DIY movement is enabling more people to emerge as designers. So what would they end up making? Are we going to adopt the latest trends in the west or are we going to romanticise our local culture? We believe there could be an alternative path, something that is neither of these extremes. We propose this Q&A session to create a discussion on what that alternative path of design could be. We will share real world examples and scenarios and probe a discussion on what values will they adopt in their design in such a situation. The intention is not about the outcome but lies in the very discussion. These values are considered so “natural” that questioning the very basis of it in the session, could result in something interesting. Thats what we are looking at.

Requirements

Openess to critique and be critiqued

Speaker bio

Mayukhini and Mani are fellow designers from NID, Gandhinagar.

Mayukhini is a hardcore design researcher who is motivated to understand the complex nature of human beings and how that impacts design of things and systems that we live with. Her work has been critically acclaimed in design circles in India. She runs a design research studio in Ahmedabad and also teaches design at engineering colleges to help them reflect on questions of technology.

Mani is an entrepreneur turned designer. He started his first company at the age of 13 and later moved onto design on realizing the impact that design could create. He specializes in experiential design with skillsets in creative coding and design of interactive products and spaces. He was working with Media agencies in Bangalore to help them setup experiential design labs. He is currently full time involved in the development and design of an IoT product.

Comments


  • 1

    [-] Nishita Gill 2 years ago

    Hi, since your session is away from the general intention of the design track, could you please elaborate on the intent of your session a little bit more than the slides and the description provided… Thanks!


    • 1

      [-] Manikandan Hk 2 years ago

      Hi Nishita, Hope you are doing good.

      We went through the 3 broad categories listed under design and what it intends to convey. We find our topic fitting into the two categories: (1) design for context (2) Larger philosophical discourse

      Whats the Larger philosophical discourse? It raises an awareness about the values that are coded in design. All design decisions are basically value choices. For example, blackberry is based on the value of always connected for work. This seems as a ‘logic’ natural to its designers and eventually, owing to their influence, even hegemony, a logic adopted as natural by other societies that may not have upheld these values.

      At some level, looking at design for developing societies, these values of developed societies are often adopted as ‘natural logic’ of development, consciously or unconsciously. For example, computerisation of information may favour the logic of efficiency over the logic of human relationships, where the act of exchanging information between people is an act of community.

      A simpler example could be, in designing a software, we tend to think of storing information as files and folders as the natural & the most efficient way. What if the users of this software have a different perspective to way they organise and use information in their daily life. As the design world embraces user centered design, can we find a way to include these values also into design? This is where it becomes interesting. Usually, there are two kinds of responses to such interventions - one that paints technologies of the West as utopian interventions and the other that has dystopian fears about them - a primitivist response , with a romantic idea of ‘local culture’ to be ‘preserved’.

      However, there can be an alternative path to design - which neither blindly mimics western technologies and their design logic, nor over romanticises the indigenous and is anti west, but is a conversation between the local and the outside. [ #designing for the context ]

      How does it become relevant to TGP audience?

      Design is becoming highly democratic. Modern tools and DIY movement is enabling more people to emerge as designers. So what would they end up making? Are we going to adopt the latest trends in the west or are we going to romanticise our local culture? We believe there could be an alternative path, something that is neither of these extremes. We propose this Q&A session to create a discussion on what that alternative path of design could be. We will share real world examples and scenarios and probe a discussion on what values will they adopt in their design in such a situation. The intention is not about the outcome but lies in the very discussion. These values are considered so “natural” that questioning the very basis of it in the session, could result in something interesting. Thats what we are looking at.

      Feel free if you have further questions. Will be happy to answer.

      • Mani & Mayukhini

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