”We don’t have a hardware problem, we have a socialware problem” Global technology ethnographer Tricia Wang emphasizes the inherent risks in thinking of the existence of absolute truths. She compares modern digital technology with mediums from previous historical contexts, and how the conviction to convey an objective version of the world with the help of these mediums inevitably make us believe that this representation of the world reflects its true character.
We like to think of technology as something that will help us to make better sense of the world more effectively, but Tricia argues that it instead often makes things less clear. This gets even more troublesome when we tend to rely on the technology to bring the world to us without experience it in its natural form. We need to ask ourselves who it is that gets to construct this truth and from what perspective.
The lack of different perspectives in technological development risk to create a one-sided representation that, intentionally or unintentionally, neglects the diversity of our world and the communities within. When companies set up algorithms or other more autonomous technical solutions, the design in many cases is a progeny of their own singular perspective which can lead to unfortunate consequences.
Tricia also discusses virtual reality and the way that we like to put a great amount of faith to it in order to make us more empathetic with its attributes to include multiple perspectives in a single technology. Still its creator has to decide what’s worthy to film and from which perspective. This could potentially lead to what Tricia labels as perspective collision, when the things we design get used in such ways that it reveals the limited perspective of the designers themselves. Instead, companies should strive to adopt a perspective shift, the ability to see the world from another point of view, essentially empathy.
Throughout history, art have generated, and generating, vastly different perspectives of reality which companies need to contemplate more on how to integrate in different aspects of their work. Only half the dream of a global village has come true, the technical part. The social part is lacking.