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REVIEW: To Save Everything, Click Here

DOI: 10.1093/jdh/ept034

Tonkinwise, C. “To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism.” Journal of Design History 27.1 (2014): 111–113. CrossRef. Web.

p.2: This book then should of great interest to readers of the Journal of Design History because here is a mainstream non-fiction book, negotiating what appears to be the expanded field of ‘design thinking’. Morozov’s concern is that we are entering a historical phase in which designerly solutionism is being enabled by ‘The Internet’ to unsustainable scales -- Highlighted mar 15, 2014

p.2: The more substantive argument that Morozov poses to Solutionism concerns design as moral prosthesis. Morozov is explicit about following Bruno Latour in this regard: it is wrong, he says, to think ‘technology ought not to intrude on questions of morality’ (p. 232). -- Highlighted mar 15, 2014

p.2: so Morozov worries that morality-by-design leads to what Ian Kerr calls a ‘moral disability’, ‘whereby humans put morality on autopilot and no longer cultivate any disposition for honesty’ (p. 195). Morozov moves on from this argument to a more nuanced critical question, via Roger Brownsword’s talk of a ‘register of practicability’ where moral behaviours are elicited not by wider social mores, nor even by more self-interested prudential considerations, but instead by the fact that those behaviours become by design more effortful. -- Highlighted mar 15, 2014

p.2: Morozov is concerned that materializing ethical choices into our built environment makes those ‘design decisions’ ‘harder to question and revise. They just fade into the background and feel entirely natural; indeed, they are often seen as an extension of the built environment rather than the outcome of deliberate planning by some wider social engineer. However, if we want to live in a world where norms and laws are constantly subject to revision and debate, then perhaps we should be wary of delegating so much regulation to technology’ (p. 200). -- Highlighted mar 15, 2014

p.2: Are we, as Latour advocates and Morozov concurs, ‘maintain[ing] the reversibility of foldings’ (p.  201)? Is Design History for example empowered to unfold technological systems to question the ethical values they materialize? Given that the answer on the production-side tends to be no—Design for Disassembly/Repair and Upgrade is becoming rare, let  alone Design for Deliberation (see for example the way Sustainability initiatives such as Life Cycle Assessment are powerless to investigate proprietary supply chains)—Morozov’s popularist polemic is trying to clear a space for something like Design History on the consumption-side. The hope is that we readers of To Save Everything will become amateur historians, reverse engineering what ‘The Internet’ tries to get us to download. -- Highlighted mar 15, 2014

p.3: Design is pharmakon to Morozov; whilst it poisons us with its monitoring and sharing and nudging, it is also the source of the antidote: ‘Properly designed, technology can expand—not just shrink—the deliberative spaces that make our moral life possible’ (p. 202). -- Highlighted mar 15, 2014

p.3: ‘Designers [who] see friction—not efficiency or ease of use—as a productive resource that, properly deployed, can highlight complex issues that are very hard to see in a frictionless world.’ (p. 327) Morozov draws on Carl diSalvo’s recent curation and interpretation of a range of ‘critical design’ projects (in his Adversarial Design, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012). -- Highlighted mar 15, 2014

p.3: And the value of Morozov’s To Save Everything is that it insists that this is the job not just of designers, but of design historians—especially ones engaged in ‘histories of the present’ according to the maxims with which Morozov concludes: (1) focus on technologies, not technology; (2) doubt linear causality; (3) historicize; (4) doubt the rhetoric of revolution. -- Highlighted mar 15, 2014