John Cowen

John Cowen

User Experience • Design • Creativity

Technê

Published:

Over Christmas I read the latest book from Dark Mountain Technê.

Dark Mountain issue 8

The book is a series of essays, each of which explores how technology affects our lives. I found it a fascinating series of essays looking at how technology is often not giving back to humanity all that we think it is.

Most essays look, in different perspectives, at how technology has been having an adverse affect on our lives. Physical, mental, financial, environmental and on. It's not however just the writings of luddites and technophobes.

Few, if any, of the writers are suggesting technology is entirely bad, or that we in any way want to entirely turn our backs on it. More they look objectively at the increasing power of technologies available to humans in the modern world and recognise there is a risk of placing ever-growing reliance on technology at the risk of stripping away our humanness.

In his essay Weak Links, talking about a narrowly avoided nuclear catastrophe Matt Miles writes:

The Goldsboro incident and its consequences are fascinating to me not because of how close the United States came to experiencing a major nuclear catastrophe, but because it is illustrative, in the most dramatic way, of the dangerous and mutually-sustaining relationship between complexity and technology. Instead of questioning the fundamental need for such a dangerous, massively destructive and resource-intensive technology, the US government did what humanity has always done throughout history when confronted with complexity: they introduced more technologically-advanced technologies.

Essentially: the solution to a technological problem will not always be technological fix.

Inevitably I read the book from the perspective of a website designer - and I could certainly draw many parallels at different points where websites rely too much on technology to solve user problems rather than rethinking the design or the user journey to simply restructure the problem and present the user with a scenario that is more immediately understandable and actually reduces the amount of technology needed to complete the task.

The growing prominence of UX, HCI, CX and design thinking roles - shows that we're increasing aware people and technology aren't always going to get along. But the Dark Mountain book shows that it doesn't necessarily matter how well designed and intuitive a technology's interface is (and remember this is all technology, from an electric toothbrush to a nuclear warhead - not just websites) - simply using technology is still relatively new to us as a species. Technology can (and has) evolved much much quicker than we can. And while there is much we can embrace and enjoy from technology - we should be careful of not being overly seduced by it. Recognise it introduces as many ills as it solves. And for all of us involved in designing and building technological devices, this is a wonderful book to encourage you to step back from a project and think again about how it is going to be used by people and ask how it is going to add the the long term sustainability of their lives.

You made it to the bottom! Thanks for reading.

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