The design industry’s reigning paradigm is in crisis. It’s time to evolve from human-centered design to humanity-centered design, write Artefact’s Rob Girling and Emilia Palaveeva.

If followed blindly and left unchecked, this cult of designing for the individual can have disastrous long-term consequences. A platform designed to connect becomes an addictive echo chamber with historic consequences (Facebook); an automation system designed to improve safety undermines our ability to seek information and make decisions (the plane autopilot); a way to experience a new destination like a local squeezes lower income residents out of affordable housing (Airbnb). Each of these examples is recognized as a real product or service design feat. Yet by focusing on the individual user alone, we often fail to take into account broader cognitive and social biases. By zeroing in on the short-term impact and benefits of our designs, we spare ourselves asking the really hard question: Are we designing a world we all want to live in today and tomorrow?

 To be agents of positive change, we as designers need to think more broadly about the direct and secondary consequences of our work. We need to be clear-eyed about what we are striving to do and minimize the chances of creating more problems than we are trying to solve. To do that, we need to integrate our discipline with systems thinking, which entails understanding how systems work and evolve over time. This will allow us to anticipate and mitigate the negative longer-term consequences of well-intentioned solutions. As a result, we will be poised to design systems that have minimum negative impact, create and sustain equity, and build on technological advances without disrupting the foundations of society. We have the responsibility to evolve from human-centered design thinkers to humanity-centered designers.


The Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) published some months ago a three-part podcast series on the intersection of ethnography and design.

The podcast series produced by Tariq Rahman and Katherine Sacco, was based on the conference “Ethnography and Design: Mutual Provocations,” which was hosted by the University of California, San Diego in the fall of 2016 and features conversations with three conference participants about what the theme of ethnography and design means in their work and for anthropology more broadly.of California Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design (CoLED) at the University

The UX of AI

January 29, 2018

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If you aren’t aligned with a human need, you’re just going to build a very powerful system to address a very small — or perhaps nonexistent — problem.

As was the case with the mobile revolution, and the web before that, machine learning will cause us to rethink, restructure, and reconsider what’s possible in virtually every experience we build, writes Josh Lovejoy, UX Designer at Google.

The Google UX community has started an effort called “human-centered machine learning” to help focus and guide that conversation. Using this lens, they look across products to see how machine learning (ML) can stay grounded in human needs while solving for them—in ways that are uniquely possible through ML. The team works across the company to bring UXers up to speed on core ML concepts, understand how to best integrate ML into the UX utility belt, and ensure they are building ML and AI in inclusive ways.

Using Google Clips as a case study, Lovejoy guides us through the core takeaways after three years of building the on-device models, industrial design, and user interface—including what it means in practice to take a human-centered approach to designing an AI-powered product.


Rethinking The Smart City – Democratizing Urban Technology
By Evgeny Morozov and Francesca Bria
Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office
January 2018

Download pdf: English version – German version

Following the celebration of the “creative city” (as described by Richard Florida), the “smart city” has become the new flavor of the month—and a brand. It makes clever use of resources, and it attracts money, corporate power, and private industries. Offering us cheap, effective solutions to social and political problems, the smart city is functional, optimized, and safe rather than participatory, sustainable, and fair.

As Evgeny Morozov and Francesca Bria point out, however, the problem is not merely the regulatory impulse of smart technologies. Coming from a political-economic rather than a purely technical perspective, the authors argue that the smart city can only be understood within the context of neoliberalism. In order to remain competitive in the era of austerity politics, cities hand over the management of public infrastructure and services to private companies, both de-centralizing and de-personalizing the political sphere.

How can cities regain control not only over technology, data, and infrastructure, but also over the services that are mediated by smart technologies—such as utilities, transportation, education, and health? Offering a wealth of examples and case studies from across the globe, the authors discuss alternative smart city models, which rely on democratic data ownership regimes, grassroots innovation, and cooperative service provision models.

Laying out what works and what doesn’t in the smart city of today, the authors do not simply advocate for a high-tech version of socialism in the fifth publication of the “City Series” of the Rosa Luxemburg Stifting. By carefully assessing what is at stake and for whom, this timely study offers practical solutions for how cities can be smart while retaining their technological sovereignty.

Evgeny Morozov is a prominent critic of digital capitalism, dealing with questions of how major technology companies are transforming society and democracy. The author of several books, he also writes for various newspapers, including The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

With a background in social science and innovation economics, Francesca Bria is an expert in digital strategy, technology, and information policy, who is active in various innovation movements advocating for open access, open technologies, and digital rights. She is currently Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer at the Barcelona City Council.

Great Wave Data

January 16, 2018


With augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) becoming the next computing platforms, app developers have been increasingly focused on building AR and VR apps.

One of the companies that aim to be on the cutting edge of Analytics VR and AR app development is GREAT WAVE. By helping people understand and analyze data more quickly, such a tool could provide richer, more insightful experiences than the ones derived from paper and screens. Studies conducted by researchers at Stanford and by the neuroscience and analytics team of the AR developers META (in conjunction with Accenture) demonstrate how the use of 3D information could amplify people’s efficiency and ability to focus on tasks.

Have a look at the video of GREAT WAVE:



Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age
by Matthew J. Salganik
Princeton University Press
2017, 448 pages
[Read online]

An innovative and accessible guide to doing social research in the digital age.

Matthew J. Salganik is professor of sociology at Princeton University, where he is also affiliated with the Center for Information Technology Policy and the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning. His research has been funded by Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, and has been featured on NPR and in such publications as the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

Interview with the author (Wired)


The world is experiencing a merging of media and minds that we haven’t yet created a vocabulary for.
We know that user experience design has the power to respond to what algorithms deem “suitable” to us, but have we understood that this changes the way our brains work in symbiosis with our machines? What if we could understand these changing neurological dynamics as Cognitive or Rich UX as the starting point for our designs to purposely deliver desirable human outcomes?
From using design to combat smoking addiction to nudging concept recognition and formation for autistic users through designed media content to navigation by instinct in immersive environments, Professor Karen Pollitt Cham is exploring all this with her work at the University of Brighton.