“To balance our accounts of society, we simply have to turn our exclusive attention away from humans and look also at nonhumans. Here they are, the hidden and despised social masses. They knock at the door of sociology, requesting a place in the accounts of society as stubbornly as the human masses did in the nineteenth century.” – Bruno Latour
The relationship between humans and technology is complex, multifaceted and surrounded by numerous ideas and issues that are in constant evolution. This was the impression left by Jesse Stein’s week 4 lecture; ‘Technology and the Social’. Among the various views raised, the idea that particularly stood out was the view proposing technical things as active in the world, rather than mute or passive (Stein, 2014).
There is no dispute that technology is widely integrated into human lifestyles, a quick walk around the house or even a glance around the lecture hall gives enough evidence. But are they not just tools and devices created for human convenience? Certainly, some views would agree. However, such an outlook no longer feels appropriate as it increasingly becomes apparent that technology plays an influential part in shaping human behavior. It could be said that technology, in the modern word is an inherent part of society, where there is a mutual constitution between people and things (Stein, 2014). Bruno Latour’s opinion of nonhuman objects forming a “missing mass” in social links dictating the actions in society (Latour, 1992) appears to agree, bringing technology away from being a background structure to an entity that engages in society.
This notion of technology seems to be increasingly relevant for designers, particularly when speculating future design ideas and concepts. It is no longer enough to produce new objects solely to substitute or aid human activity, new designs must become items that facilitate various behaviors and forms of interaction, playing an active role in human lifestyles.
Japanese designer Kenya Hara’s 2013 exhibition “House Vision” demonstrates this interwoven nature of the addressed issues by integrating electronic appliances and technologies into a larger network to create a social space – a response to Hara’s belief that the housing industry can not be isolated but must be combined with other industries, technologies and ideas, including energy, transportation, communication, household appliances etc. (Porada, 2013).
The exhibition offered a visualization of potential possibilities for the Japanese industry through the lens of a house; a house, which will operate as a “huge, autonomous electrical appliance”, as, stated by Hara. (Hasegawa, 2013) It is a living space or environment that is “smart”, tracking energy activities with a life logging system among other abilities – in other words, a house that suggests a lifestyle built upon a foundation that has been designed to encourage a mutual relationship between humans and non-humans. Thus the idea of a house is transformed from as passive shelter into a “powerhouse” (Hasegawa, 2013), an entity that plays an active role in forming social behaviors and shaping human lifestyles.
Further on House Vision: http://www.ndc.co.jp/hara/en/works/2014/08/housevision.html
Adams Stein, J., 2014, ‘Lecture 4: Technology and Humans,’ UTS Online Subject 85202, powerpoint presentation, UTS, Sydney, viewed 15 October 2014, <https://online.uts.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-1109657-dt-content-rid-5574569_1/courses/85202/techhumans%281%29.pdf>
Hasegawa, K. 2013, House Vision Exhibition: Kenya Hara, Frame Publishers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands viewed16 October 2014, <http://www.frameweb.com/news/house-vision-exhibition-kenya-hara>
Latour, B.1992, Where Are The Missing Masses? The Sociology Of A Few Mundane Artifacts, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Porada, B. 2013, House Vision 2013 Exhibition Hits Tokyo, ArchDaily, viewed 16 October 2014, <http://www.archdaily.com/345209/house-vision-2013-exhibition-hits-tokyo/>