The Stuff Between Us

The design of a technology is also always the design of an interaction. Hence the subject of design goes beyond formal aspects, appearances, and interfaces of technologies to concern the experiences, behaviours and qualities of life that emerge from them. As designed interactions influence individuals and societies, technology cannot be considered as neutral. This necessitates that the political, social and psychological effects of technology assume a more prominent position within the discourse surrounding design.

Currently, however, technological development seems to be increasingly led by notions of innovation and economic efficiency, as well as the aim of increasing shareholder value, rather than an ethical debate that addresses more complex human needs. A deterministic view on technology renders its development as unstoppable, irreversible, ungovernable and, above all, incontestable, and thus prevents a nuanced perspective – either you are for or against it. A danger also lies in the possibility that technological development overwhelms us and overtakes our attempts at contemplation. Without a differentiated debate, our relationship with and design of technologies become somnambulistic.

This symposium explores the current state of the design of interactions from three perspectives. First, from the perspective of interacting through technologies, by discussing how technological artefacts increasingly mediate interpersonal communication and thus, human relationships. The promise of new communication channels, for example, often lures us into a private world that, rather than allowing us access to the world’s knowledge, reinforces our preexisting views. Second, from the perspective of interacting within environments shaped by technologies, exploring for instance how technologies such as light not only ameliorate everyday situations, but fundamentally influence and reconfigure social interactions. Third, from the perspective of thinking about possible or alternative ways of living through fictional and speculative design objects, which thereby become objects of debate and forms of interacting with possibilities of existence.