Q&A: Master in Design for Digital Experimentation at Elisava

Published by Tim on Monday April 22, 2024

Last modified on May 1st, 2024 at 8:11

From September 2024, I will be teaching in a new program called “Master in Design for Digital Experimentation” at Elisava in Barcelona. This is a great new challenge for me. Irene Pereyra is in charge of this Master’s program and asked me a few questions that made it clearer to me where I want to go.

How do emerging technologies like AI and IoT impact design practices, and what new roles do you see for designers in this changing landscape?

Designers have a much greater responsibility today than in the past. Their work often has an impact on the behavior of millions of people. Innovations are entering our world at an unprecedented pace, affecting the systems we are involved in, in complex and unpredictable ways.

I think as designers, we need to ask more critical questions today than ever before. We need to expand the concept of design and venture into spaces that were previously reserved for engineers, programmers, architects, philosophers.

I strive for a holistic understanding of design in order to assess technologies such as AI and IoT historically, systemically and ethically. Of course, I am totally aware all this sounds bold and not pragmatic at all. But my goal is not to provide definitive answers. I want to identify and ask the right questions with my students.

What responsibility do designers have in addressing the ethical challenges posed by technology, particularly in areas such as user privacy, data security, and algorithmic bias?

From my point of view, “ethics” is a notion that currently receives too little attention in the field of design. In ancient Greece and Rome, reflections on the “good life” for the individual and the community were a fundamental part of the public discourse. The stoic philosophers, for example, saw a fulfilled life solely in terms of contributing to a functioning community. I think we should now dedicate a modern renaissance to these ideas. Issues such as data security and algorithmic bias are such pressing problems because we have been forced to quickly adapt economically and culturally overwhelming complexities. Instead of just fighting these fires, we should take the time to ask ourselves how, where and by whom they were set. We should strive to understand which strategies could potentially make us more resilient in the future.

What role does cross-disciplinary design collaboration play in addressing future challenges?

Networking the disciplines and closing the gaps between technology and design is probably the biggest challenge in developing a resilient designer personality. To do this, we need a culture that leads us away from individualism and towards collectivism. We should forget the idea of the designer as a hero and use our strengths as communities. Some modern tools help us to do this, while others don’t and even harm us. We need to use creativity and design to shape the conditions in which creative work can be done collectively.

How can design foster a culture of attention rather than distraction, especially in an era dominated by information overload?

That’s a great question. I think it’s about asking what has been buried in the rush of innovation promises over the last 30 years. What could fairer and more sustainable social communication and information structures look like? How did it happen that we outsourced our entire digital infrastructure to American monopolies? What price do we pay for what we get? I want to explore alternative concepts and cultures such as Slow Media, Permacomputing, Frugal Innovation or Low Tech to question and rethink these structures together with my students.


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