Amber Case: we need calm technology!
Instead of calming us, technology constantly interrupts us, says Amber Case. The Harvard researcher is an advocate of "calm technology" – devices and aids which work discreetly in the background to simplify our daily lives. Case demonstrates what this might look like below.
"We’re already living in an environment where technology, we know, hasn’t solved everything," says the American. In fact, technology often makes life unnecessarily difficult, for example: "The idea that you’d have a fingerprint that would have you open the fridge. The issue is that when you’re cooking and your hands are completely messy, you can’t really open the fridge any more." Or when hacked fridges knock out government websites. "We have this era of interruptive technology," says Case in her speech. "We need the opposite: calm technology that makes you calm and human."
One reason for our constant distraction is the design of mobile devices, which are still conceived of as though we will sit in front of them in the same way that we did with desktop computers, giving them our complete attention. This is stressful for many people, because they aren't able to complete other tasks at the same time.
In order to reduce stress factors when dealing with technology, Case establishes eight principles for the development of calm technology:
- Technology should require the smallest possible amount of attention
- Technology should inform and create calm
- Technology should make use of the periphery
- Technology should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity
- Technology can communicate, but doesn’t need to speak
- Technology should work even when it fails
- The right amount of technology is the minimum needed to solve the problem
- Technology should respect social norms
Case admits that calm technology is boring, like electricity at home: it's there when you need it, but when it’s not, you notice it very quickly. Case sums up the use of this new technology in a single sentence: "Calm technology allows people to accomplish goals with the least amount of mental cost."