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Adaptive Products: Designing for Evolution rough Use - page 17 / 31





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dependent on these appropriations. Products are always multistable, but usually in a less dramatic manner than the telephone and typewriter examples. Nearly every use of a product exists in a slightly different context, and these are altered all the time as people, situations, and society change. Perhaps then the ethical challenge for design is not to inscribe the “proper” set of mediations into a product, for when “human actions are explicitly and consciously steered with the help of technology”27 one can justifiably be concerned about a loss of personal autonomy and fear of a technocracy. Instead, designers can encourage and enhance the multistability of a product. Although they cannot predict how it will be interpreted and appropriated they can provide flexibility to allow for various possible definitions. By allowing and encouraging users to rewrite or edit a product’s script designers give people more autonomy over how products mediate their actions and perception of the world.

Designing for Adaptation

Products that allow people to adapt them to new stable states, by giving them the freedom to alter the script of a product, require a signi icant change to the design process. Traditionally, designers have acted as delegators, researching functional needs and synthesizing them into the form a product. What they design normally has intended users, a particular script, set technological intentionalities, and a defined form. However, if products are to evolve through use, people will need the freedom to change each of these variables. How can designers allow for this kind of increased involvement and how does it change their role in the product development process? Given that designers can’t control how people will use a product


Ibid., 369.

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