Overcrowded Ecologies: Designing Value through More-than-Human Factors

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Elisabetta CianfanelliMaria Claudia CoppolaMargherita Tufarelli

Abstract: With artificial intelligence being tirelessly trained and constantly learning about subjects and objects inhabiting given environments, whole new ecosystems have been rising and developing, where beings and things are equally entangled in boundaries, connections and relationships, capable of enacting their own agencies at any time.In fact, since everyday life becomes more and more home to smart objects related to the Internet of Things paradigm at different scales of innovation - private, social, urban systems -, the resulting overcrowded ecologies seem to ask to be tackled through design approaches focusing not only on artifacts understood at a limited stage of use and as passive tools related to human agency only. Autonomous vehicles, robots, sensing surfaces, recording devices are populating society in increasing numbers, pushing the social sphere towards its more-than-human futures. In this sense, the resulting computational environment produces a more-than-human experience, with all its clustering, classifying and patterning information happening almost instantaneously and often without the need of a perceiving subject. This leads to a significant change in the way information is experienced and used: examining the interlocking nature of humans and technology by looking at the way technology is humanised, and humans are technologised, it seems that smart objects are gaining complex features like being deliberative, reflectional, experiential and communicative, allowing them to produce both reflectional knowledge, - namely knowledge which humans can use to think about phenomena with new insights - and actionable knowledge - namely knowledge which non-human actants can use to do things and achieve goals. Thus, human knowledge and data-driven knowledge promote specific values, influencing collective life, launching a twofold challenge in overcrowded ecologies: from one side, designers might address thing factors so that they could sense and understand the world through more-than-human values; from the other side designers might address being factors to build meaning through shared values.As both beings and things learn and act, the world is full of extended agencies, where it is not worth distinguishing whether humans extend their own agency through objects or vice versa. According to the “hybrid” behaviorism making its way and leading to new insights for design culture, the contribution aims at investigating more-than-human factors and values in times of hyper-communication, where contemporary landscapes appear so heterogeneously populated, that embracing diversity and the radical interdependence it entails means grasping the diverse needs of design beneficiaries, be they beings or things. Synthetic and organic agency, natural and machinical ones: it is very likely that designers will not only design with them, but also for them: networks of natural and computational entities can in fact be thought of not only given objects - wheter they be enabler or disabler - but agents participating in the design space, triggering the development of corresponding design methods, frameworks, and practices to better address the challenges to be faced today as a planet. Thus, designing in overcrowded ecologies becomes a matter of care and inspires designers into shaping more-than-human communities, expanding their disciplinary areas of practice as an exercise of stewardship within society.

Keywords: Internet of Things, Human-computer interaction, more-than-human factors, ecologies, interdependence

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001414

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