Artful Design Chapter 8 Response

by Daniel Donghun Kim

Principle 8.5: Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral;

This week's reading in Artful Design covers many elements of the moral aspects of design. I read this principle with great interest, because my major in Cyber Policy and Security actually deals with this topic a lot. Technology, inherently, does not tilt to good, bad, or neutral. It is the designer's intention that makes this classification. For example, a lot of the pop-ups and payment systems are designed to 'trick' people into sign up for their newsletters, pay more money, and choose the more expensive option.

While this has been an area that was mostly considered grey by many engineers, recently, there are policy moves to ban such manipulative designs. While this is a solution that is implemented by policymakers not by the engineers themselves, I believe this sheds a light on how important it is for the designers themselves to think about the ethical dimension of their designs. In particular, if you're going to make the system more haggling to get your customers to pay more money, does it really align with your own and society's ethical standards? These are questions we have to consider as designers and engineers.

Principle 8.9: Technology is about what we can do. Morality is about what we ought to do.

I studied philosophy in undergrad, and Kant's principle of categorical imperative is very much something that I truly value going into everything. But what is a categorical imperative in design? What is good in itself in art? I believe any humanistic (excluding the purely functional ones) design originates from some form of yearning towards beauty and aesthetics. I believe the designer's categorical imperative is to explore beauty, provide beautiful and thought provoking experience, without causing unnecessary harm to others in the course.

First, on providing beautiful and thought provoking experience. To every person, the most valuable thing would be their own worldview and their own experience. Thus, the abiltiy to impact the person's world through artwork, to change perspective and lead them to think, is a unique good that artists and designers can do unto other people. Also, I believe the final caveat that I put is crucial. I believe art can be shocking, and it should aim to create something that is unconventional, new, and impressive. However, it should not do so by deviating to an shocking extent from the fundamental values of humanity.

Principle 7.11 A & B: That which can be automated should be, that which cannot be meaningfully automated should not be.

I initially found this principle very perplexing. Isn't this an easy statement that doesn't say much? But then I realised the difficulty and the beauty of this statement comes from the act of defining what are the things that could be meaningfully automated.

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard of this principle is drip coffee. Dripping my own coffee is one of my favourite activities and it is definitely a weekend ritual that I cannot let go of no matter how busy I am. However, I recently gave up on hand-grinding my own beans, which is something that I kept for a very long time. On the other hand, I would never give up on the experience of pouring over my own coffee, because seeing the muffin-like structure come up at the top of the beans with the scent is one of the best feelings. It is one of those things that are ends in themselves, not a means to drinking my coffee. This image association was able to really teach me what this principle was trying to say.