As a critical perspective, human-centred design thinking can help challenge and expand the way we think about the potential of the digital economy, and its impact on society and inclusion.

For example, the consumer model of society requires continual product innovation, built-in obsolescence, and fashion-based marketing to drive global prosperity. Such a model reduces human prosperity and well-being to technological innovation and ultimately limits the potential of digital technology to enhance human experience and society. In contrast a critical perspective based on the kind of experience-centred design approaches we have been developing within SiDE:

“…offers an opportunity for critically deconstructing consumerism’s narrow equation of enhanced experience with more and better technology. Technology clearly has an important role to play in enhancing people’s lived experience and society, but technology innovation has to be guided by richer understandings of growth and development; understandings, which are in fact at the heart of the richer conception of experience that is being developed in experience-centered design.” Wright and McCarthy 2010 p.138.

Through its rich analysis of people’s lived experience with technologies, and its focus on the person behind the technology, experience-centred design shifts the critical focus of design and development work from the technology as artifact with qualities and properties to the relationship between people and technologies and the impact design decisions have on users and stakeholders. Witihn SiDE, the Creative Industries and Connected Homes and Communities activities have explored a critical perspective on the digital economy in a number of their projects. Wallace’s work on digital jewellery for example challenges conventional assumptions about mass production and conventional assumptions about the form and purpose of digital technology. Creative Industries’ work on do-it-yourself electronics and personal fabrication provides a perspective on the democratizing potential fo the digital economy.

In addition to the critical design work highlighted above, many of the activities within SIDE are using and developing different methods from user-centred design. For example the transport activity consults users about the definition of early requirements for systems to support older people’s car driving. The Creative Industries and Connected Homes and Communities activities have explored more radical co-design methods including involving teenagers in the co-design and co-development workshops, using drop-in centres to engage members of the public in technology evaluations, working closely over extended period of time with individuals in their own homes to gain first-hand knowledge of the experience of dementia.

The Design perspective has also carried out ethnographic studies exploring digital media consumption practices over a range of domestic and social settings to provide richer understandings of how digital media are consumed and shared. In terms of designs third commitment, to realising new forms systems and services in all of these cases, the human-centred design methods have led to (or are leading to) new prototypes of systems and services, as well as exploring new potential experiences with and through technology. However, more significant impact here will be seen over the final phase of SiDE.