Only a a few weeks to go, and we’ve finally nailed down a topic for our panelists. We’ve offered them the following paragraphs as framing and have asked them to use their talks to respond to the questions at the end.
It is possible to speak of the broader scale dynamics of a socio-technical system. A system might experience phase changes, might be more or less able to incorporate new information, might be more or less able to take coherent action and make good decisions. Yet in the same way that we can experience weather directly, but not the climate, the size and scale at which these dynamics operate may render them hard for us to understand and measure.
These dynamics are determined–at least in part–by the communication between individuals and the manner in which individuals extract information from their environment. Incremental changes in the nature of people’s communication networks or information consumption patterns can aggregate to create significant shifts in the dynamics of the larger socio-technical system.
We are continuing to build and adopt technology that can effect such incremental changes at massive scales. A single design change to a social platform used by a billion people might precipitate large and sudden social changes at global scales.
Systemic changes will result from the rapid adoption of social technology regardless of whether we anticipate or look for them. Responsible design should seek to incorporate awareness of these effects, but this raises the following set of questions.
- What are the potential changes we might see? How can we measure them? How can we anticipate them?
- How are specific aspects of design connected to systemic changes? What sorts of technological interventions can be / are used to bring about which kinds of changes?
- What sorts of systemic behaviors do we desire? How are such behaviors to be balanced against need for individual freedom and choice? Who should make decisions about design in light of such impacts?
Each of our three panelists will be speaking to one the above questions. What is your take? What do think design that is oriented to these kinds of questions should be called? Please comment, and share with others if you think the discussion is interesting!