- Netflix put out a new documentary series on design. The New Yorker has a piece that points out their framing of the design field is somehow simultaneously too broad (folding in architecture and photography among other things) and too narrow (no real coverage of say, interaction or service design) and errs on the side of boosterism rather than looking at the design industry critically. To be fair, it's difficult to be comprehensive in a handful of episodes but it is an odd melange to start with and after watching the series it's curious that the two industrial design episodes (covering shoes in one, cars in the other) fail to present any negative consequences (like sweat shops or climate change) of mass design and consumption. It's well worth watching, but we'd love to see more honest, deep conversations about design make it to the screen. It's possible celebrate the pleasures of design and its positive potential while also pushing for higher standards and more complete stories that account for externalities.
- The Museum of Modern Art in New York has become a big supporter of well-designed products that began their lives on kickstarter, helping young companies continue sales through an unconventional retail channel: the museum store.
- Elon Musk says humans will need to become cyborgs to maintain relevance and avoid drowning in the rising sea of automation and AI. While the further integration of hardware and our bodies and brains is virtually guaranteed (see: pacemakers, IUDs, brain implants to reduce Parkinson's symptoms, etc.) the idea that embedded upgrades will become necessities for economic survival is fraught with ethical and legal issues. We already live in a world where the rules around exactly how we can use, hack, repair or alter technology are complicated, restricting our access to our everyday devices. If you combine intellectual property frameworks like those intersecting our basic human rights for bodily autonomy, along with the fact that workers being displaced by technology and struggling to find work will also struggle to find the means to afford such procedures, you have all the makings of a true moral quagmire. For the future to do more than echo injustices of the past dressed up in a shiny veneer of new technology, areas of development like this will require incredibly careful steps. Assuming there is a 'proper' way to engage with concepts like cyborg-laborers, there will still be deep impacts on culture and society, with real potential to permanently segment populations in ways we've never seen before.
- Two approaches to dealing with housing shortages and providing shelters for the homeless in the Bay Area: one via direct action activism, and one based on constructing 160 square foot "micro unit" apartments that would rent for around $ 1,000/month. We're all for diversity of tactics when it comes to tackling big, complex problems, but transitioning from homelessness to paying rent of a grand a month seems like it won't do much to help out the most vulnerable residents of our cities. It's a bridge too far, and desperately needs more transitional design practices to close that gap. While the DIY shelters are arguably flimsy, ugly and unlicensed, they offer an immediate solution to keeping people dry and shielded from the winds.
- After a period of time when "platform" companies attempted to remain agnostic and sidestep taking blame for the bad behavior of users, a few are now making an effort to be more accountable and take action. Backchannel has the story of NextDoor (a community message board/neighborhood watch for the internet generation) and their struggles with exacerbating racial profiling in communities. After pressure from the press and existing community groups, NextDoor made changes in UI/UX that have reduced complaints of profiling. Similarly, twitter seems to finally be getting serious about addressing the twin-headed beast of harassment and hate-speech on their platform. They recently rolled out a change that temporarily reduces the reach of users with abusive behaviors and constricts their ability to assemble ad-hoc mobs that harass specific targets.
- Some background on the Keep Austin Weird slogan, how it's been adopted by other weird (or aspirationally weird) cities and the many attempts by others to commercialize it and cash in.