On Humane Technology

humane technology

As technology seeps deeper into our everyday lives, it’s increasingly important to make sure that we challenge assumptions about its role in our lives, and the philosophical and ethical issues of technology.

Recently, there have been some interesting articles on how technology can be designed to quietly fit into our lives.

This technology is described as Humane or Calm Technology.

Calm technology is a type of information technology where the interaction between the technology and its user is designed to occur in the user’s periphery rather than constantly at the center of attention. Information from the technology smoothly shifts to the user’s attention when needed but otherwise stays calmly in the user’s periphery. (Wikipedia)

Jesse Kriss recently wrote a piece that was based on a presentation he gave entitled: Human Scale Technology.

For Kriss (part of) the answer is making technology at the Human Scale.

Turn down the amplifier a little bit. Stay small. Allow for human correction and adjustment. Build for your community, not the whole world.

It is at this scale – the human scale – that benefits really begin to accrue.  One of the biggest being that communities can come together to build the technologies that they need.

In Mindful Algorithms: the new role of the designer in generative design Che-Wei Wang articulates an approach for designers in thinking about the future of development and the centrality of algorithms.

I think the problem we’re facing is the speed at which algorithms are being adopted into every process from finance and design. The speed of adoption is faster than we know how to use algorithms – so we are scrambling – we find data and we use it.  Those who use the data aren’t creating the data or scrutinizing the data enough. We’re searching for data before asking the right question.

Indeed, these questions around algorithmic accountability are emerging in academia and scholarly publishing and citations.The idea that communities can themselves build the infrastructure, systems and services they need is interesting in the context of a number of higher education projects (think of the recent growth of university publishing platforms and enterprises, as just one example).

It is unlikely that these questions and concerns are going to go away. Instead they will intensify and infest almost every area of technology and digital development.

Finally, if long posts or articles aren’t your thing, and what you’re really looking for is a list of principles for making more humane, calm technology, then you need Principles of Calm Technology.calm tech

While their focus is obviously on technology, the principles actually apply to any number of other activities where you’re interacting with other people. So communications, marketing, content and so forth.

They are, essentially, principles about how we interact and communicate with each other.



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