Video: We shape our products and our products shape us by Josh Brewer

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In this thoughful and gripping talk from Mind the Product San Francisco, Josh Brewer talks about what most of us instinctively feel – that as early adopters we’re not only the most passionate about technology but also the most wary of it’s potential impact.

We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.
– Marshall McLuhan

A fascinating recent example of this trend is the Apple Watch. This product was designed and built solely as the answer to the overwhelming distraction of Apple’s own iPhone. The iPhone had a profound effect on our human behavior: it changed the way we have human relationships, and in some ways it brought us closer. But the downside is that now we are habitually trained to respond to every nudge and ding on our phone, and it distracts us from the moment.

As product people we are responsible. We are responsible for the ramifications of the decisions that we make. But we don’t talk enough about the consequences and impact of the behaviours that we are creating and promoting.

The technical properties of a medium shape social practice, and if the resulting social practice is harmful, it’s the medium that is at fault.
– Bret Victor

But Josh argues that we can’t just blame the medium itself, because human hands created that medium. He argues that we have to Mind the Product – to pay attention and be mindful of the products that we’re building, and what effect it might have on our users.

What we make completely testifies to who we are.
– Jony Ive

Silicon Valley is too focused on building gimmicks. Too focused on the next disappearing message or photo sharing app. Too hyper-focused on growth – to hit the numbers and make some money. Now some companies are solving legitimate business and health problems, but even in those sectors every decision we make about the product has an effect. Behaviours designed to drive your engagement numbers potentially have a disastrous effect on us as human beings, so even there we’re not making the world a a better place!

This is not an argument for beauty and aesthetics. It’s about ugliness of process. There’s too much excess, not enough care. We should have a desire that the things we’re putting into people’s lives are things that have care, that have consideration, even if we don’t understand the effect of it. Think about “why am I doing what I do? Why do I feel compelled to build products, to create?”

We are called to be the architects of the future not its victims.
– R. Buckminster Fuller

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