Reading Response 6 | Kat Fenton

In today’s day and age, we design what’s real; the things that we can see and touch and feel, facts and numbers and words with no feeling. We need to adjust our designs and change the way we look at how what we do affects the world. After talking a bit about the real versus the unreal, this article moves to talk about captology, a word that has grown in meaning since the 1990s. Captology can be defined as “Behavior design in the study of computers as persuasive technologies.” It is also a form of social engineering. While this can be effective in certain marketing aspects, it’s important to realize that people have a will of their own.

We can boycott products from companies with morals that we disagree with. We can protest and riot too. “Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. And that led me wonder, if reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about pluralnrealities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others?” An interesting quote that voices the opinion that we need to change, culturally, the way we address the individual and the mass.

Another interesting thought that I’d like to address is the opinion that Think Tanks are bad. I think the concept of a think tank is well founded, but it is the political bias of a government that stifles the creativity that think tanks are supposed to create. I think speculative design helps to address many aspects of design that are stifled by reality. Technology for a time also solved some of these problems. It ignited the imagination. Unfortunately now technology has become another stifling aspect to our creativity. I learned quite a bit more about politics than I really care to from this article as well. Who knew wikipedia wouldn’t even have a definition for comuno-nuclearists. I mostly skimmed this section as I hold a strong grudge towards all forms of politics (anarchy, amiright?) and moved on to the next article.

  • Generating Futures
  • Evaluating Futures
  • Enlisting Sponsors
  • Materializing Futures

These were the four things that I drew from this text. Mostly I like to equate this to critical thinking skills, something that is often underdeveloped within our society. We are brought up in school to follow equations and directions. The only form of critical thinking skills we can develop are through our arts programs, and even then, they are muddled together with steps to draw the perfect drawing and techniques to make you look like a pro. Our inability to think for ourselves, to create truly new and unique thoughts in our minds, is a huge benefactor to our lack of advancement in this decade.

As I read these articles, websites like Luminosity and MindSumo come to mind. The gimmick behind sites like luminosity is that they will improve your mind. You will think clearer, remember more if you use the games they provide. Your brain is just another muscle right? To a certain extend this is true, but your brain is so much more than a muscle. It is you. Everything that you ever have been and ever will be is in your brain. So why would you treat it like your calf muscle or your biceps. On the opposite end of the spectrum is MindSumo. Companies come to this site to find solutions to their problems in the cheapest way possible. College students. The demographic that is seemingly constantly screwed over by every aspect of our society. Our 40 year employee can’t find a solution to the problem, lets not hire someone who can, lets cheat some college chump out of a potentially incredibly successful idea and maybe give them $100. Lets make look back on this once they graduate and realize that their critical thinking skills were a waste because someone could basically steal them. Anyways, I digress, this reading was extremely long but hopefully it will be our last for a while.

Reading Response 5 | Kat Fenton

Just like everything in life we are ruled by cause and effect. We currently have a huge influx of machine labor, and therefore a large decline in natural resources and habitable land. As we enter into a new age of technology, we also face rising fears of automation and job scarcity. While one side of the argument addresses our fears of having ‘robot overlords’, it’s important to take a look at the other side. We need to take a look at the positive affects of a reduction in the need for human labor.

We open the door to universal basic income. A concept that would probably be wholesomely accepted in a future where jobs are unnecessary. There is also the opportunity to consume large amounts of information in a short amount of time. The example used in Four Futures is in appliance to the medical field. Computers are able to process large amounts of medical knowledge and help the doctors using them diagnose patients more accurately. Robotics then come into play. Instead of outsourcing our clothing to child factories in China and India, we are able to create them here in a much more cost effective and humanitarian way.

When both these technologies are combined, we get wondrous things like self driving cars, self sufficient farms, and so much more. One of the other examples used in the reading is artificial wombs. This heavily ties in to one of my favorite books Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Its a book that really helps me understand what’s we’re are talking about in class right now. Its a dystopian and utopian society at the same time. It just depends on how you’re seeing it. One of the running themes is that women don’t give birth anymore (due to artificial wombs) and therefore the whole family structure is obsolete and seen as savage and archaic by most people.

Another effect of these wombs is that sex no longer has a negative stigma. It’s accepted as a part of everyday life and actually encouraged by the government to help people build social bonds. Women still take various forms of birth control but abortions are widely available to those who need them. Children are ‘manufactured’, so to speak, to have certain attributes that make them like the jobs that they will be assigned to in the future. For example, astronauts are rotated regularly in their artificial womb to stimulate their developing sense of balance. They are also created to fit into certain social classes, each of the classes are taught to respect each others jobs.

This was done through the showing of an experiment where a few people from each of the classes (Alphas, Betas, Omegas, and Epsilons) are seperated and put on islands. Alphas die of starvation and dysentary because none of them are willing to farm or create bathrooms. They simply speculate about how to make their situation better without ever acting on it. I forget how the betas and omegas die but the Epsilons have no one to direct them so the die of starvation as well.

New Tech Research | Kat Fenton

Ecstacy will be used to treat PTSD in clinical trials

I’ve been following this story for a while, just because I find this type of work in the medical industry really interesting. It really represents a change in thinking for me. These are drugs that used to be taboo in not only the public eye, but also in the medical field, are being re explored.

I think this is an important part of our society switching from religion and superstition to a fact and research based culture. Though MDMA has largely been associated with the club scene and many other drugs, it’s important to realize what it is at its core – a chemical mixture that alters your state of mind. If you boil it down to this, you open up a whole world of possibilities. Especially with our shift to focusing on our mental health as much as our physical health, this kind of exploration is important to deepening our understanding of how the human brain works.

It’s not necessarily a new technology, since ecstasy has been around for a while. But I’d like to argue that it’s a new way of thinking and it’s something that definitely could have a huge positive effect on a lot of people. This whole process started back in 1985 with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. This past year the FDA began funding them for the third phase of the study.

The participants in the study include “combat veterans, sexual assault victims, and police and firefighters with PTSD who had not responded to traditional prescription drugs or psychotherapy. Patients had, on average, struggled with symptoms for 17 years.” So far, two thirds of the participants’ symptoms have gone down so much that they don’t meet the criteria for PTSD anymore.

The researchers involved are so optimistic about these trials that they are estimating that this could be a viable treatment option by 2021. With all this positivity though, there has to be a negative side, right? Doctors are worried that people could abuse this drug much like prescription pain killers. Researchers involved in this trial make the argument that this drug should be used only when in therapy. This is how Dr. Mithoefer and his wife, Ann Mithoefer, conducted their trials.


Sources : NY Times


Reading Response 4 | Kat Fenton

I’m really glad this text outlined what it would be talking about in 5 bullet points because I had to read this a few times to feel like I understood what was going on.

This paper formed desirability to be based on morals. I’m not sure I entirely agree on this since, in my opinion, many things are desirable but entirely immoral or vice versa. Its also quite hard to have a discussion about desirability based on these means since different cultures place more emphasis on different values. Viability stands more along the lines of achievability. But it’s goal is to do away with the notion that “it looks good on paper but it will never work”. Achievability is the final step. It asks “what would it take to implement this change”.

The example used here is UBI (I had to look this up because I’ve only heard very vaguely about what it is). As I was reading into this, I found this really cool Forbes article. It points out our ever changing world of work. Companies used to be hundreds of thousands of people, but now, they can be run by just a handful – 13 people run instagram :O Three things can come of this; we do less work, we demand twice as much, or a bit of both. These options all require a huge change in the way we think about work today.

“It would eradicate those huge marginal tax rates that people at the bottom of the labour pile face.” In layman’s terms, it would eliminate the taxes that keep our poor in poverty. If our politicians today started their arguments with that statement, I know an overwhelming number of people would support their stance.

Viability is a bit hard for me to understand since it seems to consistently be linked to achievability. I found the argument that we should talk about the future as much as possible really unique and interesting. People tend to think only about one step forward instead of two. I think we’re a bit afraid of the possibilities so we avoid speculation. Social limits and beliefs about those limits are also closely linked and it’s definitely important to recognize this. Don’t get me wrong, you can make the impossible possible, but its never easy. NASA believed they could go to the moon and we did. Copernicus believed the earth wasn’t the center of the universe, he was shunned by everyone he knew. It wasn’t until quite a bit later that his belief’s were adopted by the general public.

Reading Response 3 | Kat Fenton

The first thing that really sparked my interest in this article was on the excerpt on page 81 about re-engaging public planning and other things. It reminded me of a TED talk I watched a year or so ago about designing with the blind in mind. Chris talks about how when you design for people with disabilities, you make everything a little bit easier for people who don’t have disabilities. It’s really good and I highly recommend watching it. The talk about dark matter in this article also reminded me a lot about the butterfly effect. We’re all connected even though we don’t realize it and sometimes the smallest thing, can have a huge effect (like micro aggressions).

The way the book explains dark matter and how we as designers should use it can be seen throughout history. You must redesign not just the car, but the whole manufacturing and distributing system as well if you really want to get something new. Henry Ford would probably be the best example of this. He didn’t just make another carriage. He made an entirely new mode of transportation as well as a new form of manufacturing and distribution. The redesign of the BBC iPlayer is just another example of having to do more than just change the look of something. You have to change the feel of it, and sometimes, it’s better to create something entirely new.

“It seems a bit obvious but the way that public services are organised inevitably influences the outcomes they achieve. Policymakers and managers are taking design decisions all the time, too often without realising it. (Philip Colligan, 2011)”. A really good insight into our government if you ask me. We let our politicians lie to our face nearly every single election, and then when they don’t follow up on their false promises we turn our head the other way and say it must be because of the other party. I’m glad that this book touches on how design and dark matter fit into our societal structure and government. It’s not something you think about everyday. However, just like Dark Matter (my analogy being the butterfly effect) everything is connected and when you stop looking at what’s outside your bubble, you stop progressing.

Design “might instead use prototyping and feedback loops to flush out the right questions in the first place, before embarking on tentative processes that are iterative and adaptive in nature.” This quote gives me quite an optimistic view of what is to come in the next 20 years. It makes this whole read feel a bit more approachable, more human. We all make mistakes and as long as we learn from them, we’ll keep learning and growing.

Reading Response 2 | Kat Fenton

Capitalism has been in decline since the end of the Vietnam war and the economic crisis was the most recent example of it’s decline. The normal 5 year cycle of decline and recovery in the economy isn’t happening. You can see this through the persistent decline in the rate of economic growth, the increase in nationwide debt (government included), and the economic inequality of income and wealth. These factors are also innately linked. They must all be doing well for a society to prosper under capitalism. However, once one starts to fail, they all will. Many nations have discussed this problem but steps to fix it have been few and far between. Some industries, mainly financial, have recovered but their recovery is hindering the recovery of other aspects of the market. Banks are biting off more than they can chew, making claims to help large parts of the economy when they can’t.

Many of these problems are compounded with other less obvious effects. One of the large one’s is people’s general opinion of the government is in decline. They don’t believe politics make a difference in their life. This leads to less voter turnout, higher extremism in politics, and overall greater government instability. This coupled with an increase in overall public debt despite a rise in taxation, is preventing the democracy and capitalism from fixing the economy. It’s not just the general public that’s struggling with what is going on today. Our elite are beginning to believe, “that market capitalism cleansed of democratic politics will not only be more efficient but also virtuous and responsible.”

Another major aspect in the decline of capitalism is the rise in corruption and extremism. According to Max Weber capitalism should be based on “self-discipline, methodical effort, responsible stewardship, sober devotion to a calling and to a rational organization of life” not greed. However, due to the rise of the financial sector, this view has twisted into something new. These institutions benefit from illegal activities, pay and experience are irrelevant, and companies are too big to fail or be stopped. They bribe others for good rating, evade taxes through offshore accounts, and launder money.

The fall of capitalism hasn’t just happened overnight. It’s affected by corruption, public disapproval, economic downfall, and more. It’s incredible that even though it’s hard too see each of these aspects compounded, I see them individually nearly everyday. I turn on the TV and can barely stand to keep it on due to all the fighting between our political parties. I know how corrupt wall street is. The charts that show our declining economic growth don’t lie. All you have to do is turn to social media to understand why people are so cynical. I simply googled “ridiculous tweets by US government officials” and nearly all of them were from our president.

It’s increasingly difficult to have faith in the system when your elected officials behave like children in middle school. Not to mention the number of official that don’t even do their job. My biggest example would be the Obamacare act. It had over 2,300 pages filled with mistakes and loopholes. Things that should have been reviewed, pointed out, and resolved before it was enacted. Now our government is trying to completely retract this bill, taking away help for millions, without even trying to fix the underlying problems that are preventing this bill from becoming a huge success.