[iDC] play and critical approaches

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Mon Oct 2 19:10:12 EDT 2006

Stephen Wilson argued that ³[it¹d be] dishonoring of human curiosity and
an oversimplication of the diffuse nature of the research settings to
assume that every effort to invent new technologies or elaborate new
possibilities is doomed to only serve the military, industrial,
governmental complex.²

Play, open ended research and experiment are of course important. Thanks
for contributing this perspective, Stephen. Your post, however, took my
argument somewhat to an extreme. 

It is clear that technologies are very often used against the intensions
of their designers. Well-meaning design architecture can be put to
exclusionary use, for example. 

I¹d be hard to show, however, that research agendas stay independent
when corporate funding is involved. It¹d be equally hard to convincingly
argue that market interests do not shape most of technology. The
market-driven design process is not by default aligned with real human
needs at all. There is much waste, redundancy and nonsense. We can¹t
overcome social problems if we see them as secondary in relation to

Currently, we witness a lack of democratic participation in the shaping
of technology: the few who shape the design process paternalize the many
who are shaped by them. In addition, there is very little transparency
about the coding and rules that dictate the behavior of technological
everyday things. 
Perhaps such desire for a democratic participation cannot be fully
realized in a capitalist context; Feenberg seems to imply that but the
Danish example suggested otherwise.

However, an increasing number of web applications are created by
relative non-experts. Such decentralized participation in the design of
web technologies is a step in the right direction. 

When it comes to knitting together networked objects, amateur
participation is much less the case because it calls for an interlinked
design complexity that is reliant on expert knowledge.


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