Black Mirror imagines a slew of possible futures. Though they tend to share similarities, like technological advancement or dystopic intimation, the values represented in each vary significantly. We’ve discussed the show before, questioning the influence technology may have upon our values, and our values upon society. Yet these questions stand distinct from design, as they presume inevitability, as though we have no authority over the future of our society. Black Mirror demonstrates that we do. By considering the values presented in pop culture iterations of the future, we hold the mirror up to society in the present, challenging what must change, what must be designed, to shape a preferable future.
Indeed, for design to shape a preferable future, design must communicate preferable values. Research into the psychology of perception and action demonstrates the integral influence of values upon design. Tim Brown’s affective discussion of the ‘deeply human’ [Brown 2009, p. 4] nature of design thinking serves to illustrate the motivation behind design itself; it is formed upon personal values. Moreover, Postman, Bruner and McGinnies argue perception is, “a servant of one’s interests, needs and values” [1948, p. 142]. Jung elaborates, asserting a causal link between perception and action. [1980, pp. 17-20] Similarly, Fry insists, “design is, in fact, profoundly political because it gives material form and ‘directionality’ to the ‘ideological embodiment of a particular politics’” [2011, p.6, as cited by Lorber-Kasunic & Crosby 2016, p. 65]. Thus, design communicates values; as values shape perception, so perception determines action. Design illustrates the values of its designer.
Subsequently, this communication passively shapes user values. Prolifically, this has the capacity to shape larger society. This is evident throughout culture today. Donath argues, “The designers of virtual spaces…determine whether people will see each other’s faces or instead will know each other only by name; they can ensure that those names are vetted and verified, or allow them to be imaginatively created.” Though on a small scale, Donath illustrates the authority of a designer to shape a culture, depending on the values which they choose to involve. More extensively, gaming, though bearing a stigma for decades, has become socially acceptable to the extent of nonentity. An ESA study shows that internationally, 1.8 billion people play video games, with the average age for gamers set at 35 [Entertainment Software Association 2015]. The design of games and virtual spaces have shaped society and culture by the values they typify, exhibiting the potency of design to shape society.
Earlier, we discussed the reliable foundation for betterment provided by love. Thus, as values shape society through design, integrating altruism into our methodology for design offers a firm footing for shaping a preferable future. Certainly, regardless of the values we choose to promote, they will govern the future we earn. Intentional or not, these values will shape society. The choice is simply which to wield.
Margolis, H. 1982, Selfishness, Altruism and Rationality, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 26-35.
McDonagh, D., 2003, ‘Design and Emotion’, The Journal of Design and Technology Education, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 125.
Brown, T. 2009, Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, p. 4.
Postman, L., Bruner. J. S., McGinnies, E. 1948, ‘Personal values as selective factors in perception’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 43, p. 142.
Jung, R. 1980, ‘Perception and action’, Regulatory Functions of the CNS Principles of Motion and Organization, vol. 1, pp. 17-20.
Lorber-Kasunic, J. & Crosby, A. 2016, ‘Politics, the Political, and Design’, The Bloomsbury encyclopedia of design, vol. 3, p. 65.
Donath, J 2014, ‘The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online’, InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, vol. 11, no. 2.
Blade Runner 2049 poster, Roger Deakins, viewed 20 October 2017, <http://www.slashfilm.com/blade-runner-2049-trailer-2/>