Now—often these are good ways of thinking about a problem. But there are consequences to focusing so much on goals, incentives, or packaged experiences. Here are three:
- Agency. People driven by goals or incentives aren’t using their full agency. It’s the same when people are experiencing packaged “good experiences”. They also aren’t using their full agency.
- Meaning. When people are driven by goals and incentives, or piped through good experiences, there’s something missing—something meaningful to us. A goal-driven life misses space for values like creativity, honesty, civic responsibility, etc. These values give life meaning.
- Sociality. Finally, packaged experiences, goal-driven funnels, and incentives mechansms tend to be only superficially social: the user is isolated, connected to other via transactions like purchases, likes, and so on. No strong relationships.
So, the design method I'll describe tries to fill this hole—when you care about making things deeply social, high-agency, and values-driven.
Well, actually we tend to think in three ways—either we are achieve a goal with our design, or we’re delivering some kind of packaged “good experience”, or we are motivating other people by giving them incentives, like points, money, or leveling up.
Unused What would things be like, if spaces came back, big time? If there were suddenly more space-making entrepreneurs, more people doing this kind of design, and if the best spaces were measured and rewarded, and rose to the top. There was a time in our society before the current kinds of design took over, Before design was about achieving goals, delivering a packaged experience, or giving incentives. Back then, spaces were stronger. Religions were largely about making spaces. Local communities and local democracies were largely about making spaces. The modern shift, towards funnels and tubes, has meant an overall decline in spaces. So much so, that we can equate modernism with a decay in spaces. Modernism = Space Decay
In this talk, I want to look at new way to design. One that starts with the opposite idea: that people in a supportive environment will build relationships, contribute, and can be clear and self-authoring.
And these hard steps become part of our problem formulation. A space for this kind of vulnerability, will make this kind of information available, will make these kinds of relationship building activities possible, these kinds of mood-setting or transition-making actions, etc.
- Focus on what you wouldn’t accelerate
- Respond to the values around you.
- Find out what’s tricky in relationship-building, containers, and legitimation.
- Prototype together.
When you build, focus on the parts of your projects that you would not accelerate.
Understand how the people around you want to live—what they find meaningful but too rare or difficult to arrange, and build spaces for those sources of meaning. Making values cards can help you get it precise.
Pull apart stories of people successfully living by values, and use them to understand what's hard to get right.
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