I recently came across a video of a digital maternity package concept. In Finland new parents can choose to receive a free maternity package with baby clothes and other useful items from the government. The new digital maternity package is also aimed at new parents and focuses on collecting all health information from smart devices and such under one interface, improving the usefulness and usability of this information. It’s seems like a nice idea. However, when watching the video I started to feel that something was off. The video, demonstrating different technological possibilities, was putting technology between the interaction between the mother and the baby. Learning to know when your baby is waking up was left to technology. Monitoring if your baby is growing up ok was also normatively supported by technology. Actually an awful lot of different things was transferred for technology to decide and act upon, making the mother (or father for that matter) a “dumb” part of the interaction.
Now the video was understandably biased towards favoring technology, since its purpose was to show what could be done – not necessarily what should be done. Nonetheless it got me thinking how much power we give to technology. For example, different fitness trackers are useful, but are they disconnecting us from ourselves – do we need them to know how we are feeling? Does a mother need technology to know how her baby is doing, or could we instead trust her instincts? Should we trust ourselves more than we do technology?
There are design approaches aiming to put technology to the background, for example the calm technology and the naked approach. These are very much welcome in this world of being distracted by different gadgets. However, when watching the video illustrating the naked approach it seemed that it was more of an excuse to put technology everywhere than an approach to put technology to the background (there will also apparently be a lot of hand waving in the future, as has been shown also in previous vision videos).
Perhaps also these approaches could benefit from first stepping back and thinking whether there is a need for the technology in the first place. If there is, then the design principles can guide the way to a good implementation. If there is not, then the approach should not be used to cover that up.
Now as an engineer and foresighter I love technology and understand how significant a driver it is in shaping futures. I am not advocating that we should give up technology. But I am concerned about the willingness with which we put technology between each other. Perhaps we should also trust ourselves and each other in handling some tasks, especially those that involve human interaction?