Chapter 7: Social Design

For this week’s reading I am responding to various principles of social design in Artful Design. What stood out to me was Principle 7.4 regarding Authenticity: “Does the tool seek to elevate us, promote a sense of truth in how we engage with one another?” Reading this chapter comes at an interesting time in my life, as a lot of the principles are topics I’ve had to think about, having been invited to help design user experience as the team works on a proposal for Sanctuaria, a temple, a sound healing venue, shelter and place of refuge. 


I have come to really respect the social design of interactive art pieces I’ve experienced that facilitated and deepen connection with total strangers. To be honest, in The Model 7.2 lately I have found it more difficult to work on/add more value/deepen connection to the inner circles (loved ones/friends/acquaintances) so this chapter got me thinking critically about designing differently for the different levels of these circles. For all levels, I would say that “Authenticity” from Principle 7.4 is the most valuable feature of a design that I would probably focus on and apply to my designs, because Sanctuaria is a gift to complete strangers experiencing emotions on a wide range. But at the same time I have to look within myself and assess how a tool elevates my interaction with others, and listen to how others envision this experience. 


Principle 7.6 “Value Participation (and Design For it)” offers an interesting point– “success is measured by the quality of human interaction” and I fully agree. I get really excited about envisioning how people will cherish not just the interaction with the thing itself, but also how the thing helped them interact with others or discover something within. After all, some of the most impactful experiences I’ve had were being able to be completely vulnerable with strangers. 


One example is the Prairie of Possibilities by the Moon Collective. It is an interactive art piece where the fiber optic field of glowing “grass” has sensors that elicit reactions based on participant behaviors, as well as various story-collecting phone booths with echo events that share the stories. It is such an otherworldly thing, how can you not look to a stranger and bond over the activities? The phone booth itself challenges you to be vulnerable with strangers by sharing a story or confessional with them, but leaving a safe distance with anonymity, while giving you a sense of release in a beautiful ethereal field.