Revisited: "Radical Technologies"

02 Mar, 2017

Revisited: "Radical Technologies"

BCNM was pleased to be able to partner with the Institute of Urban and Regional Development and SwarmLab to bring leading technology thinker Adam Greenfield to campus to discuss Radical Technologies: the Design of Everyday Life, his forthcoming book, on March 1, 2017. Radical Technologies was part of the BCNM’s Commons Conversations, a discussion series about technology and public life in changing times.

Adam discussed how technological innovation has, for various reasons, not met its utopian and most transformative ideal. Ultimately, Adam argues that the designs of our everyday technological tools has been built for the post-human, for various interests that do not directly align with the consumer. Delving in particular into smart phones, 3D fabrication, and blockchains, Adam investigated some of the unintended consequences of design on our lives, communities, and society at large. For example, smart phones seem convenient, but they are really an exercise in data collection. Blockchains promise anonymity and safety, but they are built upon ideologies of radical anarcho-libertarianism. 3D fabrication leaps towards democratizing tools and repair, but has become commercialized and often displaces local labor forces.

But while these technologies exhibit a post-human design, we must be careful to remember that these designs are built by all too human consciousnesses, which for Adam are vaguely reminiscent of adolescent wish fulfillment fantasies… and herein lies the disappointment of the medium.

Ultimately, Adam concluded that if we are to harness the power of technological innovation, if we are to use technologies to build a better society, their design and implementation must be based upon principles of reuse and adaption, for it is the messiness that allows for growth and beauty.

Thank you, Adam, for your inspiring talk!

Survey photos of this event on flickr here.