Kentaro Toyama is W. K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan School of Information, a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, and author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology. In previous lives, Kentaro taught at Ashesi University in Ghana and co-founded Microsoft Research India, where he did research on the application of information and communication technology to international development.

Talk: What If Good Design Is Not Enough?

Watch This Talk (netID required)

Abstract: A recent text suggests that with a human-centered design mindset, “all problems, even the seemingly intractable ones like poverty, gender equality, and clean water, are solvable.” This claim, however, is not borne out by decades of design projects in international development. Time and time again, issues beyond the traditional scope of design – of preexisting culture, politics, economics, and institutions – overwhelm the effect of even the best-designed technologies.

In this talk, I will suggest that there is a chasm between the values of classical design and what is required for meaningful social change. A corollary is that if we are serious about social impact, we should make much clearer distinctions between activities meant to support it and activities we call "design."