In his article, The Sharing Economy is a Lie, Richard Eskow criticizes Uber for being no better than an unregulated Taxi Company, and that the sentiment evoked by the “sharing” economy, which Uber claims to champion, is proven false by their focus on profit to the exclusion of protecting their riders or adequately compensating their drivers. While these may be valid critiques, in light of the other articles we studied as part of the Obligation section of our theory course, it seems he is missing a larger issue.
Enzio Manzini explains how designers have contributed to an unsustainable idea of well-being, and that in order to create sustainable solutions we must focus on Consistency with Fundamental Principles, Low energy and material intensity and high regenerative potential. The articles by Linder & Peters and Meierling, point out the constraints on policy making in terms of creating new instruments and iterating to improve their precision and efficacy. Eskow focuses on the problems with Uber that stand in the way of the immediate well-being, problems that can be addressed with regulations, laws and taxation — existing policy instruments.
A more nuanced critique points out that by focusing on modifying laws and regulations to restrict Uber while becoming increasingly reliant on it for transit services, cities may promote short term well being. For example, it may distract from investing in public transit, perpetuate a reliance on roads and and private vehicles or do nothing to question the economic structure where people who already work full time need to supplement their income by driving for Uber. These are the questions posed by Manzini’s criteria for sustainable solutions. Looking at design & policy making, it is clear that designers have more flexibility and fewer constraints when it comes to applying sustainability criteria and can do so earlier in the process — ideally before releasing a design into the world. Although policy makers are more constrained overall, designers, voters and the policy makers should always look for ways to incorporate a longer-term vision of sustainability into the creation of policy as well.
The process from Innovation to Sustainable Well-Being as it typically occurs:
Notes on Readings
The sharing economy is a lie: Uber, Ayn Rand and the truth about tech and libertarians.
Eskow starts by describing a recent incident in Sydney, where Uber responded to what was believed to be a terrorist attack in the downtown area by raising its prices in order to, as Uber tweeted, “encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area.” He continues that this demonstrate that Uber, celebrated as “disruptive” innovation, is in fact, disrupting safety regulations, fair wages for employees and other socially beneficial rules that traditional businesses, like the taxi industry, are forced to abide by.
Design, ethics and sustainability: Guidelines for a transition phase.
Cumulus Working Papers.
In the last century, Designers have contributed to creating an ideal of well-being based on decreasing effort and thought required for daily tasks and continually increasing consumption. He proposes three criteria for judging design solutions: Consistency with the fundamental principles, low energy and material intensity and high regenerative potential. Using these principles, design solutions will empower users by increasing their agency and ability, rather than continuing to remove choice and promote dependency, thus creating a more sustainable well-being.
“co-producers of results”
“How to change direction: to change ideas about the user’s role and move from passive to active involvement; from the final user as part of the problem, to his/her possibility, capability and will to be part of the solution.”
Stephen H. Linder and B. Guy Peters
From Social Theory to Policy Design
Journal of Public Policy. 1984
Linder and Peter present a bleak view of current policy making: information is collected haphazardly and drawn on or ignored by caprice; results from one context are extrapolated out to unrelated contexts; and there is little understanding of how best to intervene in an “efficient and effective manner.” They suggest that trying to create a better overarching social theory to improve policy making is unrealistic given the increasing complexity of our interconnected world. Instead, they argue, policy can be improved by creating a better theory of policy making and policy analysis. Such a theory of policy design must address causation, evaluation and instrumentation.
“Thus, what may be needed as much as a theory of the post-industrial world is a theory or policy design which allows the policy analyst to deal with the complexity of the world in a mored intelligent and contingent fashion.”
Chris Urbina Meierling
The Construction of Complexity in Design and Public Policy Contexts.
The Design Research Society Conference: Design and Complexity. 2010.
Meierling looks at the complexity caused by a multiplicity of variables, our inability to determine chains of causations, and stakeholders with irreconcilable desires and concerns, in the disciplines of design and public policy, and the tools that have grown up in each culture for managing this complexity. These tools focus on four key areas: Context, Problem Definition, Value Orientation and Participation. Starting from this framework, Meierling hopes designers and policy makers can begin to explore interdisciplinary collaboration.
Jeff Patton | Lauren Segapeli | Samara Watkiss | Crystal Watson