Reading Response Ch. 8

While reading the last chapter for this week’s reading, I found myself thinking often about my own experiences at Stanford and in Silicon Valley as a whole, especially for the sections on how one might design for underlying values, and how we should operate as artful designers.

    One thing that I found to be interesting in this concept of designing towards certain underlying values rather than needs is that I think a lot of modern tech companies and their products appear to be adopting design rationale towards “values” as opposed to “needs”, yet still cause harm. Social media networks like Facebook and “the metaverse” seem to champion human connection as a value rather than towards some explicit need for online connectivity, but ironically it only drives people further apart. How can we, during our design process, avoid pitfalls like this, especially at scale? 

    In the same vein, the idea of “design is the embodied conscience of technology” really made me process how much responsibility we as engineers and designers have in shaping the fabric of our future. I was reminded of a conversation I had with someone recently on how much the way conversations and interactions between individuals as displayed in current media, say something like “Love Island”, might drastically warp someone’s perception of how real people should interact with each other if they consume that content constantly. What we see, what we hear, what we do every day shapes us in all these imperceptible ways, and across millions of people, any little thing can have a huge societal impact. In the same way, if we design or work on products that reach millions of people, which I’m sure many Stanford CS students are bound to do, are we contributing to the “digital Plato’s cave”? How might we as designers actively avoid negative impacts on society, even if we perceive our underlying values and rationales to be positive? Is that even possible to do in large tech companies while working on their products? How should we operate as artful designers while in a need-based corporate world? As someone who is a bit lost on where I want to go after graduation, I want to find answers to these questions – I do want to do good through my work as both engineer and designer, but where to find that (while still making a living) still somewhat eludes me.