Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist at Harvard University and the MIT, shows how technology in uences and changes us humans – and how it needs to be designed to be more of a help than a hindrance.

Please tell us a little more about your presentation at the IFA+ Summit.

The difference between an annoying technology and one that is helpful is how it engages our attention. Calm Technology is a framework for designing ubiquitous devices that engage our attention in an appropriate manner. The aim of Calm Technology is to provide principles that follow the human lifestyle and environment in mind, allowing technology to amplify humanness instead of taking it away.
This speech will cover how to use principles of Calm Technology to design the next generation of connected devices. We’ll look at notification styles, compressing information into other senses, and designing for the least amount of cognitive overhead.

Why “Cyborg” anthropology?

Cyborg anthropology is a way of looking at networks of humans and their tools. We’ve evolved external appendages in the form of phones, books and computers. These are mental extensions of the self, and they’re changing rapidly. Cyborg anthropology is a framework for taking a step back and understanding how technology affects culture, and how these tools are changing us over time.

What are the biggest challenges – and opportunities – facing electronics manufacturers and retailers today in the light of your studies?

The largest challenge I see is simplicity and security. Often retailers and manufacturers have an obsession or fear of falling behind. This makes for hasty and short-sighted technology purchases.

What does your work with MIT Center for Civic Media entail?

We could have 50 billion devices by 2020, and with that many devices the scarce resource for our future selves is attention, not technology.

Who should come to your presentation?

Anyone who seeks to create “calmer” technology that lasts longer, works well and is easier to build and support.

Photo: Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center