The term calm technology, or quiet technology, was coined by researchers Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown in 1995 in response to the growing complexity that ICT was creating, with the idea that these systems should simplify connections and not continue to generate new ones. Amber Case, an anthropologist and member of the Berkman Klein Internet Center at Harvard University, has regained this concept as an alternative to technologies competing for our attention.
The researcher has developed the eight principles of quiet technology, which she presented in a paper available online at Fundación Telefónica. As I explained, in two years there will be 50 billion mobile devices in the world, a fact that we do not know whether to value as positive or not. “We had thought that technology would free us, give us more free time, but it has become a kind of gas that expands and invades all of space, how do we take a step back to have a better relationship with technology?”, asked Case.
The principles of quiet technology are to create devices that require as little attention as possible, only peripherally and when it is really necessary. Technology can communicate without becoming the focus. “Do we really want devices that inform us of everything that is happening? We do not need such a complex technology, but one that allows people to be smarter.” In this sense, another of the principles of Calm Technology is that the correct amount of technology is the minimum necessary to solve the problem.
Quiet technology also involves designing devices for environments that are not perfect, capable of functioning even when they fail, and that respect diversity, as the real world is diverse. As the anthropologist explained “ ” perfect scenarios are created dominated by technology, but the reality is different, sometimes we run out of battery, the connection is very bad or we forget the password.”
In her research Calm Technology, Amber Case includes examples of calm communication in the interaction between humans and devices. These include the use of lights to provide information in a non-intrusive manner, the reduction of alerts that call for all our attention to really important things and a design that allows us to visualize the information in a simple, comprehensive and intuitive way.
A response to fast life
We run to our destination. We fill every brief space of time with something to do. We’re afraid to get bored. We look at our smartphone compulsively, hoping we get some WhatsApp. True, technology has brought us into a world of well-being that our grandparents couldn’t even imagine. But it is also changing our society in ways that are not always positive.
That is why more and more movements are emerging calling for an ethical review of development. Where are we willing to go? How much longer are we gonna keep running? Technology has ethical and social implications and we have been looking the other way for too long. It is in our power to keep its development within “human”limits. This is what the 250 experts behind the Ethically Allied Design project think, about which we have already spoken, but they are not the only ones.
The revolution of quiet technology
The last time you looked at your smartphone screen, was it because you wanted it or because he asked you to? The question may sound absurd. After all, our mobile is not a living or autonomous organism, capable of consciously asking. But Amber Case, a sociologist, or anthropologist Cyborg, as she defines herself, raises that series of doubts. In his book, Calm Technology, he tells us how human beings can use technology as a simple tool, instead of letting technology catch and dominate him.