Technological Acceleration, Design Elasticity, and the Necessity of the Social Sciences
This paper addresses the paradigmatic role of the social sciences as they inform technology, design, and society. Design expresses technologies socially and physically: In this way, it is technologically objectifying; it is a fulcrum between technology and society. During the twentieth century, "human centered" design played a naturalizing role, which has led to a logarithmic complication of contemporary life and a compression of socio-temporal rhythms. This is no longer socially or environmentally sustainable. Twentieth-century technology emphasized changes of "magnitude" in human society, but in order to be sustainable, twenty-first century technology must emphasize differences in "kind". In other words, the social sciences, as expressed through design (or the creation of objects that express technological advances), must be at the forefront of a significant re-envisioning of global society. We must learn to see the world in new ways, and we must ask fundamentally new questions of ourselves and our technologies, making ourselves and our objects more "elastic". This paper questions the role of the social sciences in this paradigm shift: Their understanding of “technological objectification”, of understanding twenty-first century social constructs, of associated ethics, and of the contemporary challenges of social and environmental sustainability.
Keywords: Technology, Design, Qualitative, Social, Elasticity
Senior Instructor, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado at Boulder