Speculative Design Brief Response #10

Beijing smog

An Amazon drone making a delivery

An iPhone App showing Beijing’s air quality as hazardous

An in-car air purifier

The following is the response of Wezeit editorial team. Wezeit is a Chinese online company aimed at creating social content young people love to share.

The air quality in Beijing is atrocious. Rich people emigrate and the rest of us try to stay in doors close to an air purifier most of the time. Many of us have an app that alert us when the smog outside is merely unhealthy rather than hazardous, that is when we venture out to get life essentials. In our scenario, “I can’t get out of the hose to get what I need” takes on a new quality. It almost becomes “nobody can get out of the house…”

Industries such as online retailing or food delivery has become mainstream in this environment. A few companies have even started experimenting with drone delivery or parachuting your packages. The irony that we are fighting the consequences of modernization with even more technology is not lost to us. Still, what else could we do?

Every time we meet a consumption demand, we make our environmental problems a little worse.

Our mission is to 1) improve air quality but limit people’s consumption; 2) find more things people can do inside.

The instruments (technological or policy) we adopt should be both effective and fair.

The fairness element is important because it would not be fair for people who consume the most to get away with not suffering the consequences like everyone else. In addition, we would like to find designs that deemphasize material consumption in people’s perception of social status, and if possible enhance people’s status if they perform more social good. We feel under the circumstances, we need to make people feel pain when they create pollutions. Here are some Orwellian but perhaps necessary ideas.

Limit people’s ability to isolate themselves from general pollution in certain places. Perhaps though ventilation requirement associated with the design of windows in flats and cars. (But allow filtered air in public transportation.)

Give people quota on the amount of rubbish they generate or dispose. Perhaps only collect refuse once a week and force people to think about their waste generation.

Give each family a quota on electricity and fuel consumption caps.

Given people already spend most of the time indoors due to pollution, find ways they can contribute to society at home or in their building block. There are apps where people can sell their surplus food to neighbours. This idea can be extended to looking after elderly, house cleaning, tutoring, childcare etc. People can earn credits when they render social services and this can be exchanged locally.

We can build into the last idea many popular ideas that exist in the reward systems of MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games). Many otaku millennials spend a lot of time in online gaming in pursuit of friendship and social status. It is worth considering the psychological rewards that MMOGs give them and channel these elements into the design of a socially useful framework.

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