*the conversation in this group will be part of my upcoming book (and website)* The question I would like to explore: Can we design systems that care?

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Private Life versus Professional Life

Started by Arne van Oosterom. Last reply by Sean Kearns Dec 16, 2009. 11 Replies

Another thought: Shouldn't we change the idea that work is work and has nothing to do with our private life? It's this attitude that I find very problematic. Because there is no real difference.I…Continue

Specialisation versus Generalisation

Started by Arne van Oosterom. Last reply by Arne van Oosterom Dec 16, 2009. 3 Replies

When you work at a company like Shell, or Bhopal/ Dow Chemicals are you responsible for all their actions and policies?Or are you only responsible for your part of the system. Should you feel…Continue


Started by Arne van Oosterom. Last reply by Arne van Oosterom Dec 8, 2009. 12 Replies

(the discussion in this group will be part of my upcoming book, website and (hopefully) a positive contribution to our ever changing world)People have two basic needs: Being happy as often as…Continue

Tags: care, service, health, thinking, design

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Comment by Anne Stenros on February 20, 2010 at 20:40
Arne, highly interesting topic... There is a good classic book, Nel Noddings: "Caring - A feminine approach to ethics and moral education". The caring ethics has its roots in the virtue-oriented ethics that has been sort of neglected until recently. At the moment virtue based ethics is applied especially to the environmental ethics. Another book: Ronald L. Sandler: "Character and Environment - A virtue-oriented approach to environmental ethics". The key issue in Noddings' book is that "caring is a relationship that contains another, the cared-for, and we already suggested that the one-caring and the cared-for are reciprocally dependent... the reciprocity in caring relations is not contractual; that is we do not expect the cared-for to balance the realation by doing what the one-caring (or carer) does. In equal relations, we do expect that, under appropriate conditions... We are all inevitably cared-fors at many times and, ideally, most of us are carers." -N. Nodding. Thus, I think that the relevant question here is, how much system can have the characteristics of this dualistic of nature of caring: letting us to take care (be carers) and at the same taking care of us (be cared-fors) that could also happen. I think that this dialogue is essential when thinking of the ethical footprint - it is a sort of balance between giving and receiving. Social innovation and social entrepreneurship are very close to that.

Network Guide
Comment by Arne van Oosterom on January 13, 2010 at 15:47
In his "dying to work" TED-talk Cameron Sinclair is asking some very relevant questions. What's your ethical footprint?

Comment by Peter Jones on December 12, 2009 at 21:19
Jennifer - I agree with you about designing WITH care. And such foresight and precaution is rare and difficult to perform in actuality. People need real domain experience to be able to anticipate and improvise in those situations. When breakdowns do occur, we count on the kindness of strangers, like you so aptly point out with the directing of traffic example.

We may mean very different things by Care. If would say you're describing systems and services that have been designed to prevent error and to enhance caution. When doctors speak of "delivery of care," they mean the full complement of health treatments and services they personally oversee that represent caring for the patient. I seem like a stickler for a certain perspective, but some values need to be clarified. If we mean caution and not care, we might reserve Care for where it counts. It is like the value of Justice, that may mean one thing to judges and another to laymen. As designers, or at least in my case as a designer/researcher, I use the definition owned by the stakeholder I'm designing for, and not what I'd like them to adopt. I think terms like Customer Care are atrocious and diminish the value of real care. Yes, they mean well, but I know of no service that meets Shoshana Zuboff's notion of the Support Economy yet. We need to set a higher bar for the conditions of care (a "standard of care" in medical terms).
Comment by Jennifer Jarratt on December 12, 2009 at 20:36
Peter, Arne, I think there are systems we "care about" and others that we just don't and never will. I just finished almost eight hours of volunteering at a free H1N1 vaccine clinic & realized that although there were Dept. of Health staff running the event, there were also many local volunteers who came because this is a system they "care about" & find worth their free time.

Other systems we might just wish will run perfectly in the background and not bother us, like traffic lights. Yet that system has to be designed with care & some forethought about who it will protect (and care for) and when. And if a tree comes down & blocks the road, you'll find a citizen will step out & direct traffic until help arrives.

Some of the consumer product designers I've dealt with as a futurist have pointed out that they have to design too much care into their products and systems, thus making them less competitive with either newer & less careful products, or with newer & less careful economic systems. The pharmaceutical industry could give chapter & verse on that.

Disruptive technologies & systems are often successful _because_ they haven't had to build in as much care as older systems & because people will accept lack of care in return for a new capability.
Comment by Peter Jones on December 12, 2009 at 15:33
I'm appreciating some of the responses in this discussion. I might say that designers and people in the caring professions may have different and valid ways to think about caring & systems. The concern for speculation is that, from a design perspective, I want to be clear about what care is and where it shows up in systems, by design or by emergence. Its obviously a deeply-held value, and one I think is misunderstood. It would be like asking "can we design systems that love?" While my job is often about technology design, my philosophy is humanistic. So my response is to encourage a reframing about the perspectives on systems that we might entertain, and to dig into where caring actually shows up.

Claudio Ciborra in his last publication, the Labyrinth of Information: Challenging the Wisdom of Systems, (2002) talks about the ways in which systems have a social life the evades our best intentions. While designers may wish to infuse a humanist intent, the social history of systems shows that they become bent toward instrumentality and can take on ends we did not intend. For one, Ciborra cautions against the notion that we can "design in" qualities we believe will be perceived per the intent of design. He notes how "drift" and technique and adapted uses change any system toward often-unforeseeable outcomes. He brings up Heidegger's framing of the Gestell, that systems have a tendency to level experience and become totalizing, wherein everything becomes a resources available to yield.

Anyway, all this is to say that, as an ex-AI guy, I'm standing for the location of care as a uniquely human and non-embeddable value. Perhaps we can create the content for integrated social systems that require the performance of human care, as in healthcare systems. But following Ciborra's line, its clear to me that, over time, the stresses on and drifting of the health system form a context where care becomes a deliverable, and less of a human value. Care must be evidenced in constant acts of kindness, empathy, and situational intervention. So perhaps, systemically speaking, it may be selected by careful hiring, modeled by behavior and rewarded in organizational values sustained by ongoing dialogue.

Network Guide
Comment by Arne van Oosterom on December 12, 2009 at 0:10
Good to see you here. And you are right my framing is very broad. But this way I'm hoping not to exclude any spontaneous reactions to the theme. In this stage I'm not trying to prove anything, just get a general sense of possible direction. I am not a scientist, I am an entrepreneur and a designer. I'm not sure if I understand what you said about "...speculation, a fun thing designers do but ultimately without much impact". I see it as the fuzzy front end that leads, through a funnel, to new ideas, solutions and innovations :-)

And I agree: what is necessary to enhance care is a stronger role for human engagement and conversation.

Any system designed without considering the long term will be facing serious problems in due time. Specially a system that cares should have a long term
vision. But because we can not predict the future this implies a dynamic, flexible, organic, self learning system. But (and maybe because we don't know what the future will bring) I don't think we will ever be able do design a perfect system. We don't know what perfect is tomorrow.
And yes, there will always be people who are inclined to do the "wrong thing". Maybe I'm looking for "the right intention build into the system". A system for corporations that will correct itself when things go wrong. Often the right intention seems to be lost along the way.

And I am sure it's nothing we will fix overnight. We need to start with educating children differently.

But please take a look at the discusions about "Specialisation versus Generalisation" and "Private Life versus Professional Life".
Comment by Jennifer Jarratt on December 9, 2009 at 16:28
I've jumped through the hoops set up to join this group. Do I get a gold star?

Seriously though, I read through the excellent responses in the discussion because I'm interested in the current expansion of the concept of "design." As a futurist, I'd have to say that "design with care" or "design systems that care" has to include concepts of consequences, long-term impacts, and unanticipated consequences.

It would be pleasant to believe that if you designed a system that cared, say, you wouldn't have to worry about long-term consequences. Unfortunately that is unlikely to be the case. As an example, pre-paid phones (a system and a product) were designed to give access to communications for the less well-off & established in society. However, they are also a great boon to criminals who can use them to sell drugs, etc., & maintain their own illegal systems.

So we have to think about what a caring system enables us to do, and what it enables people (or systems) who don't care to do as well.

Just a thought.
Comment by Peter Jones on December 9, 2009 at 14:52
Arne - I've enjoyed your exchanges on and am glad to see these kinds of questions come up. I might suggest your framing is quite broad though. What do you (or we) really mean by "systems that care?" If we don't have a current example, then we may be just adding speculation, a fun thing designers do but ultimately without much impact.

My doctoral research was a study on the effects of embedded values in processes on organizations. When we say "design systems," I ignore the common usage of IT systems, because they may show embedded values, but they do not own human values, only people do. The same can be said for social systems, which may demonstrate preference for values such as care, but systems are still structures and not agentic. They cannot choose or value without a human chooser or valuer.

I think we have to relocate the focus of agency on real people making a difference, and systems that might support and enable those people. We have to consider what Greg Walsham calls the dual dance of structure and agency. So what is it we actually create? No systems are designed from scratch, and so we may not ever be able to definitively "create." What we may need to enhance care is a stronger role for human engagement and conversation! Care will show up in systems when we show up with caring.
Comment by Ori Abdul Musawwir on December 1, 2009 at 18:52
The question asked is: "Can we design systems that care?" I must respond with an (emphatic) yes!—we must design such models/systems because the ‘Time’ requires this from those of us who have dedicated our lives to the art of creating to do so!

My model/mantra is: "Creativity is the highest form of Intelligence!" Creative people are among the most intelligent in the world. Thus, the products and systems used by us in our world is the direct result of the creative genius that’s in the minds of designers! So, the world—whether conscious of this fact or not, depend on us to design and create things that will make the quality our lives better! Who else but lovers/appreciators of creation is better equipped to champion, and address the question asked? Look at it in this light; we have the power of creating peace (in the lives of others) by what is in our heart, express/reflected by our minds, and fashioned with our hands!

My humble advice to my beloved—fellow designers, is that we use (creation itself), or "that which we had nothing to do with creating" as the standard/metric for designing these systems! And, I feel that if we keep this in mind, we can just about guarantee that the systems we design will be effective, and more importantly—Caring!

Network Guide
Comment by Arne van Oosterom on November 30, 2009 at 14:10
Please join the discussion I posted on this group "MADE WITH CARE"

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