Now that the dust has settled from the intensity of Austin (complete with nuclear tacos, tornado watches and flash flooding in addition to Will Wright’s keynote and Bruce Sterling’s rant), my inner magpie has sifted through SXSWi’s glitter and taken away a few shiny threads of what are hopefully insightful and inspiring. (as a side note, SXSWi is publishing podcasts of the panels: find them here)
Many of the panels I attended and the majority of the conversations that I had with people indicated a shift towards trying to understand what is being articulated, changed or revealed in us through our relationship with technology. The consensus is that our focus on technology is richer and more reflective when we think about who we are as people and what we want, with critical engagement and inquiry directed towards socio-technical means and motivations.
Empathy – the ability to understand someone else’s condition (emotional, economical, social, mental, etc) – is emerging as the critical factor in not only designing but also living through and with new technologies and technological platforms. Our ability to imagine what people think, feel, want and imagine themselves as is heightened when we redefine what we hope to get out of our relationships and how we may want to use it.
Any goal we define has a set of constraints and metrics applied to it, and data passes through relevance and application filters. Sometimes we permit the information to change the filters, sometimes we do not. What I perceived at SXSWi was a strong motivation to accept and look for the nature of that change in developing ideas. To change the nature of the system which will support and disseminate them, and to imagine new systems.
Along with this comes (among many other things) learning how to listen to what else people are saying and doing when they interact, speak, gesture, etc – through their physiological, emotional and tacit responses to a particular thing. Implicit within this as well is a deeper understanding of context – why does someone feel or want this way, and how much does the design of the thing reflect this want and help them achieve it? A contextual caveat though is understanding that my bias is to look for these kinds of connections and keys, and that there were also discussions that reflected far different ideas and approaches, some of which were, or were not as the case may be, as rich in potential.
Social computing, and its reflection throughout our face-to-face interactions and mobilizations, is increasingly revealing how we are using new tools and lenses through which to granulate and disperse our behaviours. The benefits of social computing are enormous, and as the drawbacks begin to emerge so too does a desire to understand to what affect our social practices, exchanges, and systems will be transformed. In addition to our cognition, physiology, economics, industries, cultures, etc, etc. Insightful and deep approaches to design are being rethought to reflect more of our behavioural, cognitive and physiological responses – as discussed by Kathy Sierra, Alex Steffen, Bruce Sterling, Henry Jenkins, Phil Torrone, Will Wright, etc, etc.
way more after the jump