I just dug out my old Audrey, a computer appliance designed for the home released in 2000 and then canned in 2001. What a shame to think a device with such thoughtfully designed software and hardware was so quickly relegated to the dust-pile of e‑history. Anyway, seeing Audrey reminded me Laurel Swan and I presented a paper on Audrey at 4S in 2005 titled “Audrey, Anyone?” The abstract is below. We did manage to interview some of the original designers on the team including Ray Winninger. However, things got the better of us and we never wrote it up in finished form. Here’s the abstract we wrote:
Wikipedia has an entry, here
A short chapter
we came across in doing background research on Audrey is Leslie Regan Share’s “The gendering of a communication technology: the short life and death of Audrey”, in Out of the Ivory Tower: Feminist Research for Social Change
, edited by: Martinez, Andrea and Stuart, Meryn. Toronto: Sumach Press.
Design Issues, Summer 2017, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 25–36
— In his 2015 Research Through Design provocation, Tim Ingold invites his audience to think with string, lines, and meshworks. In this article I use Ingold’s concepts to explore an orientation to design—one that threads through both Ingold’s ideas and Vinciane Despret’s vivid and moving accounts of human-animal relations. This is a “thinking and doing” through design that seeks to be expansive to the capacities of humans and non-humans in relation to one another.
In my contribution, I’ve reflected on Tim Ingold’s provocation
at the Biennial Research Through Design
conference, and tried to play around with opening up a more generative kind of design. My experiment has been to put Ingold’s ideas of lines and meshworks in conversation with Vinciane Despret’s
uplifting stories of animals and becomings. A strange mix, but one that for me at least raises plenty of interesting questions — and isn’t it more questions we need?!
Anab Jain very kindly asked me to contribute a short piece to the programme for the Vienna art, design, and architecture biennale.
With the motto:
“Robots. Work. Our Future”
… the Biennale sets the developments in robotics and AI against the future of work and labour. I’ve used this as an invitation to consider two ‘modes’ of capability:
When it comes to judging the capacities of humans and nonhumans, we are drawn to two modes of existence. In one mode, we are compelled to see capability as residing within an actor, as an intrinsic quality of their being. A favourite determinant is the brain-weight to body-weight ratio; another is genetic predisposition. We have devised all manner of tests to isolate human and nonhuman capacities: IQ tests, rats mazes and Turing tests among them. Naturally, humans come out on top using most counts.
In the second mode, we observe actors excel in their achievements. We allow ourselves to be surprised and delighted by exhibitions of capacity that exceed our expectations (and that contravene the first mode in so many ways). To find evidence of this mode, one need only turn to that vast repository of record and observation, YouTube, and witness the viewing numbers for titles like “species [x] and species [y] playing together”, “species [x] and species [y] unlikely friends”, and so on. As these titles suggest, capability is often recognised here as accomplished with others—with other objects, other actors, other critters.
Speculating on human capacities—on what humans might be capable of and how they might work in the future—I find myself asking, as the animal studies scholar Vinciane Despret does, which of these modes is ‘more interesting’ and which ‘makes more interesting’. Which of these modes invites us to speculate on new fabulations of actors of all kinds, of actors becoming-with each other, of becoming other-than-humanly-capable, of becoming more capable?
I am taken by the mode that views capability as collectively achieved and that invites those conditions that enlarge capacities through on-going interminglings. The future of work, through this mode, will be dictated not by the limits of being human, but by how we might best attune ourselves with others, how we might become more capable together.
Thanks to Richard Banks for pointing me towards this piece published on Fast Company’s site by Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini (Tog):
The article is a hard hitting critique of Apple’s current design philosophy. More than this, though, the two long time interaction design gurus set out a clear project for design, one that they see Apple having been instrumental in but now deviating from. Their general argument is, on the face of it, pretty convincing. Yet digging a little deeper it’s one that I have problems with. This post is really an effort to sort things out in my own mind. (more…)