After Nature and the Future of Interaction Design

I recently read After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, by Jedediah Purdy. It's a fascinating book that explores the history of environmental thought in the United States. Purdy suggests that we have gone though several phases of human-environment relationships, changing the way we construct nature time and time again. The crux of the argument is that we can no longer separate humans and nature because humans are now so deeply involved in the environment, there isn't a place on earth that isn't in some way "touched" by humans. It's a foundational idea in my dissertation, and one that I hope begins to shape the way we think about interaction design and technology use in the future. In the book, Purdy writes, “Whatever innovation brings, people will continue to shape the earth by inhabiting it, changing everything from its atmospheric cycles to its soils and habitats. It is much too late to imagine that any technology could enable humanity to “stop disturbing” the earth. Instead, every technology will become part of the joint human-natural system in which we make and remake the world just by living here.” It's a provocative idea and one that presents new challenges for designers as we learn how to live in a world affected by climate change, urbanization, and other global concerns. I will write more about this in the future as I continue my research in this area. For now, take a look at this great interview with Purdy at the Atlantic.