Wrenches and hammers

Tools by fissionchips (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Per Axbom’s tweet, written in frustration about digital often seen as the answer to everything, stirred a range of emotions in me. On the one hand, I was quick to agree with the statement, thinking about how  commonplace the digital tools have become in our daily lives. They’ve become so mundane and we have become so accustomed to them, that we’ve started appreciating the tools more than what they help us accomplish or who they enable us to be.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help thinking how the technological achievements of the relatively short period of time would not have been possible, if someone somewhere didn’t go, “I wonder how I can eliminate the imperfections that physical things limit me to?” and didn’t think of making ones and zeros do the job for them.

We arrive at lasting change, when we aren’t satisfied with the existing order. In our heads, problems require solution. In our attempts at finding it, we tend to focus more on the nature of the solution rather than the problem. I believe that, in part, the technological advancements are to blame for it.

It is crucial that we consider, understand and address the real need in the solutions we promote for a given problem. Often, it’s easier said than done. Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s book Design for Real Life has had a profound effect on how I view creating processes and designing flows that serve humans and solve problems. Eric and Sara rekindled my love for looking beyond the obvious. A highly recommended read for anyone in touch with humans!

Later, Per followed up on his original tweet, by proposing the discussion about offline solutions to digital problems as an alternative:

I like the idea of breaking free from the hypnosis of the “offline denial syndrome”, as James puts it. Maybe the medium is not the answer. Maybe online and offline aren’t rivals, struggling for minutes they get to be used as solutions. If we see them as tools, maybe it would be easier to consider the problem first. A wrench and a hammer serve different purposes. A wrench can be used as a hammer, but it really shines its purpose as a wrench.