12 Matching Annotations
  1. Sep 2018
    1. Now an impoverished Marxist cultural critique suggests that such encounters between people, qua humans with richly diverse lives, are the very opposite of — or further, directly opposed by — the alienated encounters underwritten, if not compelled, by money. You see this kind of argument when people say “the ‘sharing economy’ is an oxymoron that has nothing to do with sharing because people are lending their underutilized resources for financial recompense.” However, what has always seemed to me most interesting about many ‘sharing economy’ platforms is not that they are spaces outside of commercialism, but rather ways of affording a re-embedding of economic exchanges in social relations within commercialism. When I ride-share or home-share, there might be money changing hands, but the actual experience of the ‘service’ is of two people (when there are face-to-face encounters) who cannot entirely withdraw into prescribed roles of employee and customer. This is why these ‘sharing economy’ experiences tend to be awkward, in ways that I have tried to argue are in fact deconstructive of the monolithically abstract idea of capitalism.These moments underline that there can be ‘sharing’ within economies, that relations between strangers do occur at levels or in ways beyond what is covered by their monetization. Service designing, it seems to me, is precisely the pursuit of these forms of sociality that exceed commercialism even within commercial interactions. This is the quality that a well-designed service encounter will manifest, a quality that will differentiate such a service from other less-designed ways of managing or engineering services.Service designers should therefore be expertly sensitive to these emergent and sometimes even resistant socialities. Designers should understand that at the very core of their practice is all that is concealed by excessively capitalistic perspectives: the hidden labor of informal economies; the emotional and aesthetic labor provision that service interactions compel from providers without adequate recompense; the satisfiers that make care work rewarding beyond their inequitable pay scales; the moments of delight involved in the comfort of strangers. All of these, it should be clear, are political, sensitivities that acknowledge oppression and exploitation via gender, race and class.All this is why service design is never just the design of this or that service, but part of the wider project of redesigning work and generating sustainable livelihoods. For instance, service design is not tangential to current debates about the roboticization of jobs. Service design is unavoidably involved in Transition Design, toward or away from meaningful work, or rather perhaps toward or away from quality ways of organizing the resourcing of new kinds of society.
    2. Product designers tend to aim to create tools that should be appreciated in their own right for what they help accomplish — what the philosopher of technology, Albert Borgmann calls a focal thing. These well-designed products are valued for what they enable someone skilled to do with them. The service designer is less concerned with developing a refined product, valued for its versatility or finesse, and more concerned with a material means to an end, an enabler of a service interaction. This means that those products need to be more ‘alive’ to the needs of the participants in the service. They need to be less present in their own materiality, and more automated or responsive, directing the interactions between the service co-creators.This means that service designers must have a particularly acute sense of the agency of things. All designers understand the weak forces — affordances — that the forms of things exert on users in the appropriate contexts. For service designers, these forces must be more dynamically deployed because the point is less the products themselves and more the experiences they enable but even at times direct. Compared to a product that will be used regularly, and perhaps diversely, by an owner, the touchpoints that service designers design need to be more subservient to the overall experience. They should be more sensitive to a diversity of users and use cases on the one hand, but more focused on accomplishing just this or that transition in the service journey. This means that they tend to be more animated by intention than the artifacts conventionally produced by product designers. But paradoxically, this makes them less materially present as things. A product within a service pro-duces, leads forth, by being more of a sub-ject, something underlying the process, rather than an ob-ject, something jutting out with physical presence.
    3. To accomplish these goals, service designers make use of the same power that all designers deploy and that are particular to design compared to other expert professions but that the history of non-service design has tended to ignore or fail to comprehend. Design is always the design of things, of useful things for people. To be useful, a thing must communicate or influence or force its users to interact in particular ways. You cannot design a tool that will accept any kind of input. So though modern designing has mostly focused on the design of physical products, the nature of the decisions that a designer makes about the forms (and contexts and systems) of things are completely driven by attempts to sculpt the social practices involved in using those things. I use this metaphor of sculpting to indicate that design is a process of removing materials to create the negative space to be filled by certain kinds of interactions.Service design’s focus on people-to-people coordinated interactions therefore emphasizes the obverse of artifact design. All service design is still in every case still design of things, or in the terminology of service design, touchpoints — products and environments, but also communications and interactive screens. Service design is just more oriented toward the sequences of interactions between people that can be afforded by a network of designed things.
    4. Service design at its best is an expertise in forming how people interact without directly instructing them as to what to do to get paid. But precisely because what service design brings to service management is an attention to these other ways of inducing certain kinds and qualities of interactions, service design should begin with an acknowledgement of its baseline power, that which it should always seek to avoid enlisting to effect a design. This then is why I insist on calling this practice Service Design and not Design for Service.
  2. Aug 2018
    1. Marcus Vitruvius, the classical Roman architect, defined architecture in proportion to the human body—an ideal building, as he saw it, had to reflect the ideal dimensions of a man. Today such anthropocentric design, indeed male-body centered design, seems irrelevant, perhaps even irresponsible, as the magnitude of our self-inflicted environmental disasters poses fundamental challenges to architects and designers. If the human body was the correct proportion for architecture for Vitruvius, what should the scale of design be that addresses today’s environmental challenges? Climatic change, species depletion, and oceanic pollution are worldwide problems. What is left of Vitruvius’s ideal of human reach has stretched to new global scales and millennial time frames. How can architecture conceptualize a planet on which humans have become involved in vast geological forces?

      Framing a post-humanist question for architecture. What would this mean in service design?

    1. The focus on details and delight can be traced to manifestos like Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, which propose a dogmatic adherence to cognitive obviousness and celebrates frictionless interaction as the ultimate design accomplishment. Users should never have to question an interface. Instead, designers should anticipate and cater to their needs: ”It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.15”A “mindless, unambiguous choice” is not without cultural, social and political context.
    2. But addressing problematic internal culture of design teams is not enough. As an industry we must also confront the real-world socio-political outcomes of our practice. If we accept a code of conduct as necessary, we must also accept a code of outcomes as necessary. We must create ethical frameworks to evaluate our work at all stages, especially once it is alive in the world. Our lack of ongoing critical evaluation of our profession means that design continues to reinforce a harmful status quo, creating exploitable systems at the expense of societies.
    3. It is critical that user experience design must begin to deconstruct the outcomes of our collective body of work, especially as tech becomes more embedded and less visible or more easily ignored. Saitta writes, “All infrastructure is political; indeed, one might better say that all politics is infrastructural; we ignore it at our peril.”
    4. Beyond better design paradigms, designers must look beyond the field, toward practices that directly criticise or oppose their work. In particular, security research and user experience design have significant practice and goal overlap and this relationship is often antagonistic. Both fields primarily focus on the systems of wide-scale interactions between users and technology, but the goals of the two fields are diametrically opposed; design is to create the best possible experience for a user, security is to create the worst possible experience for an attacker. By focusing of the outcomes of the two fields, it’s clear that security research is a form of user experience design. Design should reciprocate, and become a form of security research.
    5. Design is inherently political, but it is not inherently good. With few exceptions, the motivations of a design project are constrained by the encompassing platform or system first, and the experiences and values of its designers second. The result is designers working in a user hostile world, where even seemingly harmless platforms or features are exploited for state or interpersonal surveillance and violence.As people living in societies, we cannot be separated from our political contexts. However, design practitioners research and implement systems based on a process of abstracting their audience through user stories. A user story is “a very high-level definition of a requirement, containing just enough information so that the developers can produce a reasonable estimate of the effort to implement it23.” In most cases, user are grouped through shared financial or biographical data, by their chosen devices, or by their technical or cognitive abilities.When designing for the digital world, user stories ultimately determine what is or is not an acceptable area of human variation. The practice empowers designers and engineers to communicate via a common problem-focused language. But practicing design that views users through a politically-naive lens leaves practitioners blind to the potential weaponisation of their design. User-storied design abstracts an individual user from a person of lived experience to a collection of designer-defined generalisations. In this approach, their political and interpersonal experiences are also generalised or discarded, creating a shaky foundation that allows for assumptions to form from the biases of the design team. This is at odds with the personal lived experience of each user, and the complex interpersonal interactions that occur within a designed digital platform.When a design transitions from theoretical to tangible, individual user problems and motivations become part of a larger interpersonal and highly political human network, affecting communities in ways that we do not yet fully understand. In Infrastructural Games and Societal Play, Eleanor Saitta writes of the rolling anticipated and unanticipated consequences of systems design: “All intentionally-created systems have a set of things the designers consider part of the scope of what the system manages, but any nontrivial system has a broader set of impacts. Often, emergence takes the form of externalities — changes that impact people or domains beyond the designed scope of the system^24.” These are no doubt challenges in an empathetically designed system, but in the context of design homogeny, these problems cascade.In a talk entitled From User Focus to Participation Design, Andie Nordgren advocates for how participatory design is a step to developing empathy for users:“If we can’t get beyond ourselves and our [platforms] – even if we are thinking about the users – it’s hard to transfer our focus to where we actually need to be when designing for participation which is with the people in relation to each other25.”Through inclusion, participatory design extends a design team’s focus beyond the hypothetical or ideal user, considering the interactions between users and other stakeholders over user stories. When implemented with the aim of engaging a diverse range of users during a project, participatory design becomes more political by forcing teams to address weaponised design opportunities during all stages of the process.
    6. ‘Mindless and unambiguous’ is only true for those who have both the cultural context to effortlessly decode an interface, and the confidence that their comprehension is solid. Not only is this dogma an unreasonable constraint, it also frequently fails.
    7. Weaponised design – a process that allows for harm of users within the defined bounds of a designed system – is faciliated by designers who are oblivious to the politics of digital infrastructure or consider their design practice output to be apolitical.