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Home arrow Communication arrow Value Creation and the Internet of Things: How the Behavior Economy will Shape the 4th Industrial Revolution
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From Methodology to Ideology

Why talk about ideology now, at the dawn of the Internet of Things era? Because the transformations we face in the very near future require choices to be made, and choices require sets of values on the basis of which we need to operate. We are about to engage in the building of new social norms and a society that would redefine its tools, settlements and structures, expanding its networks to include everything. On this journey, choices will have to be made every time new means of human expression generate new forms of engagement, redefining entire systems of living. Isn't that pretty much what humanity went through about 170 years ago, with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution? It is not by accident that the multinational Bosch is labeling the Internet of Things 'the fourth Industrial Revolution'; this label is intended to create a clear image of the opportunity ahead of us, as well as prepare us for the magnitude of its challenges.

Redefining how we produce things, as well as the things that we produce, will also redefine benefits and values for millions of people, making the Internet of Things a major turning point in history, with every aspect of human life being influenced somehow. We cannot plunge into this future; we must design it, and this requires its own aesthetics and its own ethics. This predicament is not dissimilar to the one faced by the arts and crafts professionals in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a time of transition between the handmade products and the objects made by industry.

Principles needed to be established to ensure the continuity of human intent in a machine-made object, and this is how the profession of industrial design was born.

In the Internet of Things, we are facing a transformation of the same magnitude, if not larger. This transformation requires that organizations redefine their purpose, and redefine what is possible. In my view, the quest for a new possibility in the context of the enterprise cannot take place without the reframing of its ideology. And this is why I am drawing a parallel between the industrial design and business professionals: both are relatively new, and born around the same time, amidst the same concerns. Both have education models that were molded as a response to these concerns, and in that, they share a history of reactive acceptance of the outside factors shaping their performance, as both were lacking at the time of their emergence, a professional code of conduct, informing a mission based on ideology, rather than market forces.

It is in education that we can find the seeds of enterprise, so let us look at the industrial design education model at Bauhaus, the design school founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany. Bauhaus[1] and the movement it created, was probably the most influential modernist art school of the twentieth century, whose approach to teaching was connected to the early understanding of the relationship between society, technology and art. The Bauhaus movement was concerned with democratizing both the creation and the production of products and spaces. This meant an appropriate use of material, and trueness in the use of material in appropriate forms. Bauhaus was also concerned with the meaning of products created by industrial production, as a counterbalance to the sameness that might be the result of products made by machines. Bauhaus stressed experimentation and problem solving, which in the maturing phases of the industrial design profession, became essential qualities of today's design thinking. More importantly, Bauhaus teaching stressed the connection between ethics and aesthetics, considering morals and aesthetics the same, as parts of the same consciousness.

The chief success of Bauhaus was making design a 'tool for industry,' with both positive and negative consequences. The Positive: a new awareness that Art belongs in Industry, and the much needed differentiation of products made by machines. The Negative: the profession of industrial design after Bauhaus had no ideology of its own, but rather a series of borrowed frames of reference, from a spectrum of sources:

  • • From marketing: the creation of life style, need and want fulfillment, value added;
  • • From management: streamlining development and production;
  • • From communication and branding: product image, company image/brand; and
  • • Trends from contemporary culture in general.

Looking at it from all angles, and in as much as the founders wanted it, Bauhaus's legacy was not an ideology, but a methodology. The absence of an ideology might be sought after in many professions, and maybe to their credit, but for the emergent profession of design in the mid-1980s and further, postWorld War II, it meant the absence of Ethics.2

This is not a trivial finding, as no aesthetic can exist without ethics—it is ethics after all, which gives us the values upon which to judge the qualities of the surrounding world, and our contribution to it as well. This means that the industrial design profession had, for very long, operated on the borrowed ethics of others, and thus with the aesthetics of others as well. In the early 1990s, some designers understood that the profession needed an ethical discourse, as the ground was shifting toward a world in which sustainability was more than a mantra, but also a business opportunity. And that discourse opened the door to psychology, philosophy, and experience design, the beginnings of a whole new universe for the practice of design practice and its expertise, and a potent instrument affecting change and the quality of our lives.

  • [1] Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-bauhaus.htm (accessed: August 21,2014).
 
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