Airbnb optimized for its users (landlords and travelers), but it affected entire neighborhoods, communities, rental industry, prices, and other structures we can’t fully understand yet, effectively affecting millions of people beyond their user base. Non-users became collateral damage that suffer from unintended consequences and externalities.
User-centric and other anthropo-centric frameworks often gravitate towards select humans and their immediate needs, sometimes even at the expense of the society and the ecosystem. Commercially-bounded design should especially be held responsible.
In reality, we’re not designing only for the experiences of the end users who interact with our creations. No matter who we optimize for, our creations will affect other people, non-humans, and non-living structures that we might depend on. The boundaries that we draw around people or spaces are artificial and arbitrary. The reality doesn’t care about our boundaries. It will respond to our creations in its wholeness, cascading the effects of our work throughout the entire system.
To be able to design responsibly, we need to be mindful of the interconnectedness of everything and think beyond the present moment and into the future, and beyond isolated users to entire (eco)systems that we might affect.
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