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Chapter 1 — The Phenomenon

1.2 The Transition Today

The idea of our world as a 'global village' was new and exciting and the internet was enabling a platform where anyone could create and share their own information. In some ways it almost seems like a counter-attack was being launched as a backlash to being enclosed in an archetype of the massive, passive and standardized consumer that simply consumed; the individual now had unique aspirations and was actively pursuing them. Today we are right in the middle of the transition period, and as with most transitions, not everything is running smoothly. On the contrary, today's transition period could be considered as being rather disruptive. There is no doubt that the consequences of industrialization have been enormously constructive but also devastating. From environmental threat, to overpopulation, to the complete reliance on oil just to name a few. We are dealing with the consequences of the consequences, and we will likely still be dealing with them for some time to come.

We have this world with ridiculous amounts of damage of different kinds and we cannot pretend designers were not implicated in many ways in that. Now we are aware that designers are social actors, we are designing the world through our devices, our products, our services. And that is what I mean with being more in tune with the consequences, to look at the bigger picture and be conscious of the impact of what you're doing. — LUCY KIMBELL

These same corporations and institutions are dedicated to the industrialization of our world and some of us are having a hard time adapting and resisting the consequences. Though small and medium enterprises are proving to be agile and are finding new ways of working.

SMEs can: 1. react faster, 2. create networks of intelligence and get knowledge where they need it, 3. prototype and produce things that were very difficult to do years before. — FEDERICO CASALEGNO

On the other hand, we've witnessed how people have adopted the internet and other communication technologies, making possible not only massive technological enhancement but also major social change. Internet has been — or at least started out as — a no-man's land in many senses; free and hard to grasp or delineate, particularly for centralized bureaucratic governments or institutions that view the way things work on that Cloud we call the internet as a rather alien phenomenon. The hacker, for instance, has ignored social etiquette and violated every rule in the book to develop, at zero costs, computing skills that have evolved to become the major opportunities and threats of the internet — and that can be exponentially copied by adopters all over the world.

Today we are building new aspirations, and the ingredients at hand for building them are varied and complex. While many of us might still take for granted the material abundance and infinite growth of our individual interests, an ever-increasing group has transferred this same idea to the world of bits and information. Inevitably, their hunger for information and the possibilities afforded by the available technology so far has helped to fuel new aspirations. We see how greater sections of our society with access to so much information today are looking for truly better alternatives in everything they do. They're looking for fair options, customized products, and relevant information that help them to achieve their individual aspirations. While on the surface this might not seem so revolutionary, it is quite conceivable that a combination of factors will result in them taking over and then breaking down paradigms of ownership, value, relevancy, temporality, globalization, many social structures and institutions such as churches, companies, schools, religious groups, the way we interact with our environment, and so on. How will this happen? In short, by discovering (as technology continues to advance) much more clever ways to use information about potentially everything around us. These ways will aim to fulfil the newly born aspirations and this in turn will break down paradigms on a massive scale.

There is a whole group of interrelated aspirations which will require a powerful and reliable ubiquitous technology and new breeds of designers to serve the individual aspirations of immediacy, local relevancy and the creation of valuable networks. It's precisely in this transition period that your role as a designer becomes crucial. Find out more about the design teams in chapter 4.