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Human centred design considered harmful

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In this talk I discuss some of my concerns with human centred design, how HCD can be seen as:
1. subordinate to business
2. centred on some
3. anthropocentric
– and why that is problematic.

The talk is based on my essay with the same title: https://www.jussipasanen.com/human-centred-design-considered-harmful/

This talk was originally presented at Prototypes and Popcorn in Melbourne, Australia on 7 May 2019.

Published in: Design
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Human centred design considered harmful

  1. 1. HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN CONSIDERED HARMFUL Jussi Pasanen Photo: Javier Canada May 2019 Designer
  2. 2. ‘In less than 50 years, we've seen an overall decline of 60% in population sizes of vertebrate species.’
 Living Planet report 2018 412CO2 parts per million (ppm) average in March 2019
 Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, US NOAA ESRL, co2.earth -60% WWF
  3. 3. AUSTRALIA LEADS AFP, Robert Rohde
  4. 4. HCD De-Tomi Adriano
  5. 5. A CRISIS OF FAITH
  6. 6. 1. HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN AND BUSINESS
  7. 7. THE THREE LENSES OF HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN IDEO
  8. 8. WHAT COMPANIES CARE ABOUT
  9. 9. CAPITALISM
  10. 10. A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN SEVEN CHEAP THINGS Jason W. Moore and Raj Patel (2018) 🎥 📘
  11. 11. Raj Patel (2018) CAPITALISM NEVER PAYS ITS BILLS ▶ youtu.be/x7YEgA2f8ok
  12. 12. HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN IS SUBORDINATE TO BUSINESS
  13. 13. 2. HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN CENTRED ON WHOM?
  14. 14. TECHLASH Image adapted from Future Behind
  15. 15. THE SHARE-WASHING OF LATE STAGE CAPITALISM Mexie (2018) 🎥
  16. 16. Mexie (2018): The Share-Washing of Late Stage Capitalism ▶ youtu.be/EwModqyLzQE
  17. 17. TECHLASH AND DESIGN Sadly, much of [what lead to techlash] is done with the willing participation of designers; designers who were just applying – and often expanding on – the ‘best practices‘ of our field. 
 The design work at these technology firms follows a ‘human centred process’ and ‘improves the user experience’, yet the tech industry is reeling.
  18. 18. CENTRED ON WHOM? Human centred design has made digital products and services exponentially easier to use compared to the early days of computing. It has also made many daily interactions so much more seamless and convenient, especially for wealthier people. However, not all humans are equal in the typical human centred design process. The customer who pays the bill gets a hand-crafted experience, whilst the broader society and the living planet are typically ignored – or even taken advantage of.
  19. 19. HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN CENTRED ON SOME
  20. 20. 3. HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN
  21. 21. ANTHROPOCENTRISM “Anthropocentrism is the belief that human beings are the most important entity in the universe.” Wikipedia
  22. 22. CONFRONTING
 ANTHROPOCENTRISM Eileen Crist (2014) 🎥
  23. 23. Eileen Crist (2014): Confronting Anthropocentrism ▶ youtu.be/pZkFj9uPKXo
  24. 24. THE HUMAN CENTRED WORLDVIEW Adapted from Martusewicz (2015) in Lupinacci & Happel-Parkins (2016)
  25. 25. DESIGN IS ANTHROPOCENTRIC Human centred design is literally anthropocentric design. By focusing only on humans, we frame out the rest of the living planet. Mountains, rivers, oceans, rivers, wildlife and other animals, insects, bacteria and the rest of the bio- and geosphere become irrelevant. If their destruction is required to improve the human experience, so be it. Nor does it matter if the problems we are ‘solving’ are real or manufactured. In economist speak, all these natural wonders that enable and sustain life, are a mere externality. At best, they are just a backdrop, a temporary canvas or a prop for the perfect Instagram shot on a carefree long-haul holiday.
  26. 26. LOOK AT THE SYSTEM
  27. 27. GROWTH = CONSUMPTION = DEPLETION Karen Higgins (2013) [Emissions]
  28. 28. AN UNSUSTAINABLE SYSTEM When us designers make things more convenient for users, products easier to buy for customers, and customer service more frictionless, there is virtually always a business transaction that takes place behind the scenes. Something is being bought and sold. When something is being bought, there is almost invariably a direct or an indirect component of extraction, exploitation or emissions to it. This is unavoidable in the system of industrial capitalism, for it is a system that is fundamentally unsustainable.
  29. 29. MONEY IS TURNING THE NATURAL WORLD INTO MORE MONEY Stuart Scott (2019)
  30. 30. IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE USER? One of my core ethical principles with regards to user experience has been ‘doing things that are in the best interest of the user’. Sometimes this is easy to assess: if you are big tobacco, a gambling organisation, a payday lender, or another company directly exploiting your customers, you fail this principle automatically – no matter how ‘good’ your user experience is. Other times it is not as clear cut. Consider something like Amazon Prime, a service that is ceaselessly filling the homes of millions of customers with stuff they don’t really need. I am sure it is a perfectly designed service, taking out some of the ‘pain’ of the mundane. But our consumption culture and industrial capitalism is fast taking us towards ecological and climate collapse. Once you realise this, you can ask: is Amazon Prime, surely one of the pinnacles of human centred design, really a service operating in the best interest of their customers?
 There is no convenience on a dead planet.
  31. 31. HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN IS 1. subordinate to business 2. centred on some 3. anthropocentric
  32. 32. WHAT IS OUR ROLE AS DESIGNERS? By tirelessly making commerce easier, faster and more convenient, and therefore increasing material consumption and driving growth, what is the role of human centred design in directly and indirectly facilitating the destruction of the living planet by being the carbon-stained ‘velvet glove for the iron fist’ of
 globalised capitalism?
  33. 33. THANK YOU twitter.com/jopas jussipasanen.com Original essay: bit.ly/hcd-harmful
  34. 34. REFERENCES 1. Photo by Javier Canada 2. WWF Living Planet report 2018 , co2.earth 3. AFP (2019), Robert Rohde (2019) 4. Image: De-Tomi Adriano 5. - 6. - 7. Image: IDEO 8. Jared Spool , Andy Budd 9. Jussi Pasanen 10. - 11. Seven Cheap Things video: Capitalism never pays its bills , book website and full first chapter (PDF) 12. - 13. - 14. Image: Future Behind 15. - 16. Condensed edit of The Share- Washing of Late Stage Capitalism (2018) by Mexie 17. - 18. - 19. - 20.- 21. Definition on Wikipedia 22. - 23. Condensed edit of Confronting Anthropocentrism by Eileen Crist (2014), Department of Science, Technology and Society, Virginia Tech 24.(Un)Learning Anthropocentrism: An EcoJustice Framework for Teaching to Resist Human-Supremacy in Schools 25.- 26.- 27.Diagram from Economic growth and sustainability – are they mutually exclusive? by Karen Higgins (2013) 28.- 29.Stuart Scott (2019) 30.- 31. - 32.- 33.- 34.- 35.-
  35. 35. All content copyright © 2019 Jussi Pasanen and respective owners. Typeset in Montserrat and Hind from Google Fonts. This content is better when presented. The views and opinions expressed in this presentation are
 those of the author and may not necessarily reflect yours.

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