Interaction Design and the Corporate World

I’ve been trying to find texts discussing the role of design and the effects of corporate influence on design (particularly interaction design). There doesn’t appear to be very much written on the topic but I did find the following texts:

HCI for the Real World (PDF)

This paper by Nicholas Knouf looks at the field of HCI and argues that those of us involved in design need to think more critically about the types of problems we work on — problems usually determined by corporations only interested in profit. He cites the work of radical designer Victor Papanek:

“The economic, psychological, spiritual, technological, and intellectual needs of a human being are usually more difficult and less profitable to satisfy than the carefully engineered and manipulated ‘wants’ inculcated by fad and fashion” … What should be clear by now is the underlying critique of capitalism that forms the basis of Papanek’s project. By framing design projects within the limited space of profits, design ignores those who need the most help.

So a major problem is the conflict between the priorities of business (making more money) and the goal of design (addressing real human needs).

With market pressures, relationships with totalitarian regimes, and a legally-bound slave relationship to shareholders, how can we expect corporations to be able to use design as part of the process of social emancipation? And what would be the alternatives? This act of thinking an alternative requires a process of reflection that would focus on (as I have been doing in this paper) the designer’s role within existing structures of power and h/er latent assumptions regarding (un)conscious values that ultimately become framed through the choices of what design problems to consider.

Corporate Influence on Science and Technology

This report by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) is a more general look at the “the detrimental effects of commercial influence on science and technology”.

One of the conclusions:

Companies have expanded the number and range of partnerships with universities, focusing on business research priorities and goals. The power and influence of some corporations, and the increased …pressure on researchers to bring in funding from business, means that academic departments are increasingly orientating themselves to commercial needs rather than to broader public interest or curiosity-driven goals.

Update 2010-02-18
Another good piece by Arvind Lodaya: Deglobalising Design (via Victor Vina):

Any sensitive person cannot help noticing the stark contrast between the slick designs being created in the studios and the ever-increasing squalor and poverty around us, the increasing failure of the infrastructure, and the very different aesthetic and culture of our streets as compared with what we learn and later, practice and preach.

If you know of any other interesting texts, leave a comment…

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  1. g.
    Posted 25 October 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks loads

  2. Posted 27 December 2009 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    It’s not a text. It’s a movie. I had told you about it.

    “Inextinguishable Fire”

    “When we show you pictures of napalm victims, you’ll shut your eyes. You’ll close your eyes to the pictures. Then you’ll close them to the memory. And then you’ll close your eyes to the facts.” These words are spoken at the beginning of this agitprop film that can be viewed as a unique and remarkable development. Farocki refrains from making any sort of emotional appeal. His point of departure is the following: “When napalm is burning, it is too late to extinguish it. You have to fight napalm where it is produced: in the factories.”

    Text from:$tapedetail?INEXTINGUI

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