Friday, March 13, 2020

Themes for Application Framework: Humansic Design

To motivate users to minimise ERSU and facilitate opportunities for meaningful recreational screen-use, there were several themes of study to apply and test. I've consolidated all my previous and existing themes of study into this new 'Themes of Applications Framework' for better understanding.

The ‘Themes for Application’ framework considers harmonizing the human intrinsic needs in the design process. Interventions designed with the concept of ‘Humansic Living’ in mind are termed as ‘Humansic Design’ by the researcher and these experiences will be evaluated from testings to see if the needs are addressed and harmonised.

Humansic Design is inspired by Positive Design Theory and considers some of its approaches but it is slightly different from Positive Design. The main objective of both concepts is to enable and/or stimulate human flourishing, however the components to be considered are slightly different.

According to Delft Institute of Positive Design,
Positive Design looks at 3 main components:
Design for Virtue: Subjective well-being that is achieved by living a virtuous life. Here the emphasis shifts to morality: 'Am I behaving honourably?'
Design for Pleasure: Subjective well-being that is achieved by the sum of a person's momentary pleasures: ' Am I enjoying myself?'
Design for Personal Significance. Subjective well-being that is being achieved by addressing personally held values and goals. It relates to pursuing goals and acknowledging achievements: 'Am I achieving something?'.

Humansic Living zooms into needs and is built on the belief that by harmonising the human intrinsic needs, a person will have better sensibilities, which will ultimately lead to him behaving honourably with kindness and the society in mind. Humansic Living may consider some values of Virtues but the Humansic Design does not embrace the full concept of Design for Virtue. The closest terms in the framework will be Design for Human Sensitivities and Design for Meaningfulness (explained below).

In other words, Humansic Living can be considered first before an individual moves to Positive Living.

Humansic Living is less altruistic in a way, meaning that an individual needs to focus on harmonising his intrinsic needs first before he can behaving sensibly that can benefit the society. Humansic Living may consider how an individual interacts with people and within community but his main focus is on his personal needs, wellness and well-being. However it also doesn't mean he is entirely self-serving, Humansic Living is concerned chiefly with one's personal pleasure and taking care of his intrinsic needs that can serve his living in a rational way that might affect others positively but it should not affect others in a negative way. Humansic Living does not require an individual to behave in the most perfect attitude or sense of excellence to others but there is a minimum rational logic and goodness in him.

Humansic Living is meant to be more accessible and/or attainable, While an individual learns to take care of core needs, he can also be more human at some time to indulge in rational pleasure, he may make some mistakes that affect his own flourishing at times but these mistakes should not harm others' flourishing.

An example would be:
Sam normally visits his parents every Saturday for the whole day but this week, he was incredibly swamped and exhausted by work so he decided to only make a 1-hour short visit and chose to focus on taking care of his own needs instead, by indulging in some recreational screen activities and catching up on quality sleep. This can be considered Humansic Living as Sam did not skip visiting his parents entirely and he made sure to take care of his intrinsic needs at the same time. He might not considered virtuous as his parents might be a little saddened by his decision of a short visit. It is a positive experience for him but it may not be a 100% positive experience for his parents. They might be slightly affected but they were not harmed by his decision.

This framework will be used as a backdrop to develop possible Humansic interventions and experiences, these opportunities serve as experiments to test users’ urge to participate in mindful and meaningful screen-use initiatives voluntarily.

1. Design for Pleasure takes inspiration from Lionel Tiger’s concept of 4 Pleasures of Design (Jordan) to identify the three pleasures that need to be addressed in the meaningful recreational screen-use context,

a.  Physio-pleasure – Findings reveal that people are desperately short on bodily pleasure experiences that come from engaging with things in the tangible world. teamLab and Sensiks are two companies that design immersive and embodied experiences to allow user to experience multi-sensory stimuli instead of only activating sight and hearing for digital screens.
b.  Psycho-pleasure – Unlike children, there are no regulations or policy control on screen-time usage for adults. A study by AIA shows that more than half the adult population in Singapore admitted to internet addiction despite being advised to practise self regulation. Findings show that prescriptive approaches are considered non-appealing to respondents living in a culture of choice and freedom of expression. It is important to make sure the intervention process of ‘minimizing ERUS’ is less intrusive, more emotionally satisfying and less prescriptive. This way, interventions may relate better to users and they will be more receptive to adopting meaningful recreational screen-time habits.   
c.  Socio-pleasure – One of the top human motivators identified in early findings is social support, thus pleasure derived from social signifiers of belonging is important to look into for application.

2. Design for Human Sensitivities takes inspiration from Humane Design concept by Humane Tech (Harris), which was developed to caution against distractive technology designed for addicting consumers. Traits of human sensitivities include sense-making, attention and decision-making. Design for human sensitivities refer to products that support or elevate human sensitivities and remain unobstructive. These products should not be designed to be overly distractive, addictive or disruptive to human sensitivities. They should be enabled to bring more focus, mindfulness for users and allow for comprehensible rationale and room for self-control.

3. Design for Subsistence is important to consider in this screen-lit bustle of modern life where core needs have become expendable and quality of physiological needs is compromised. Maslow considered physiological needs the most important as all the other needs become secondary until these needs are met (McLeod).

4. Design for Meaningfulness is crucial for human flourishing. Meaning is what people pursue in their lives for personal significance and self-actualization. Kunieda defines designing for meaningfulness in life as a combination of a human centred approach emphasizing on deep understanding of human needs (outside-in) and a vision-driven approach creatively envisioning an ideal meaningful experience in future (inside-out). The radical change of society and technology make it easy for us to lose the meaning of lives and people themselves don’t know what is meaningful for their lives (Schwartz). The situation suggests meaningfulness has become more important nowadays, hence, meaning should be the central focus of designing products and services for meaningfulness in end-users’ lives (Kunieda). Designing for users to be more mindful in their screen usage can enhance meaningfulness in their lives as they spend more time to engage in other life domains such as social bonding and fulfilling core needs such as sufficient sleep to support their capabilities and potential.

5. Design for Reinforcement takes inspiration from The Transtheoretical model, also known as Stages of Behavioral Change. Singapore is a digitally-acclimatised society and cutting back on the amount of recreational time spent staring at screens is not an easy feat. Minimising ERSU to adopting mindful screen-use habits is a change in behavior. The Transtheoretical Model operates on the assumption that people do not change behaviors quickly and decisively and that habitual behaviour, occurs continuously through a cyclical process (LaMorte). This model indicates that users move through 5 stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. To progress through the stages of change, various strategies are applied to help users make and maintain change. Designer can step in with a reinforcement layer where support interventions are introduced to encourage and maintain positive change.

To design for products and experiences to make sense and be meaningful to users, the framework must be applied together with Design Sensibilities. Design Sensibilities consist of the ability to tap into intuitive qualities such as delight, beauty, personal meaning and cultural resonance (Hendrix and Surl). Designers must be aware and create natural paths toward competent use, and meaningful human engagement-product semantics (Krippendorff). By having a cultivated sensibility mindset, designers may optimise the role of positive affordances, enrich meaning-making and avoid designing wrong prompts which lead users to different action or result.

Lastly, to address a complex problem that involves other disciplines, a collaborative approach is deemed necessary. A collaborative design process with industry experts and users is initiated to identify the interrelationships between the many factors causing ERSU, understand their perspectives and expand possibilities for relatable interventions. Active user involvement in the design process is critical, as designers also need to know what constitutes as values for the expected users from the interventions. In order to design for mindful and meaningful screen-use to happen, a second order understanding is necessary - designers will need to understand users’ understanding and involve themselves in dialogue with their stakeholders; and invite them to participate in the design process (Krippendorff).


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