Goldsmiths | The importance of design in a GenAI world

Had an amazing time at Goldsmiths presenting on the book for the Expanded Practice Design MA course!

So good to throw the material in the book up against a new context, and see what interesting resonances come out.

Most importantly, I wanted to highlight how all technologies emerge into a theological and socio-cultural context… and all theologies into a technological context too.

Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the door of a church… but it’s only with the recent advent of the printing press that this can have any wider impact. The technology made the theology possible.

Similarly, the industrial revolution – and the transatlantic slave trade that funded it in so many ways – are only possible within a theological context that sustains a socio-political system that labels some people as less-than-human and others as unenlightened. A Protestant work ethic is required for salvation, and the brutal technology of slavery actually comes to an end first because missionaries decided that a slave who converted could no longer work like that (even if they failed to care that those who didn’t convert were suffering unspeakable injustice).

The point I wanted to make was that AI is not just a new technology – it is potentially going to usher in new ways of understanding ourselves and our interrelations, and will precipitate new ontologies and new structures of resistance.

And central to all of that is the act of design. Scientists and engineers create technological breakthroughs… but it is designers who then mediate those to us for actual use. And this process means that designers are in a unique position to structure the ways that technologies are presented to us – and how we work with them.

In short: it’s a vital practice that we should not hand over to GenAI.

A video of the talk will be available soon I believe.

It was also wonderful to be back at Goldsmiths because some of their MA Design studios are named after my dear friend Nic. It was great to feel his spirit in the students there (and to use Neue Haas Grotesk – one of his favourite typefaces – in his honour 🙂 )

If you’d like me to come present, do get in touch. I’ve done TEDx twice, Radio 4… and used to teach equations to 13 year olds. You know you should.


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