Asking questions of digital innovation


Presentation to Digital Placemaking Fellowship research project, Wednesday 29th May 2019.

Task: Bring in an object that relates to your work and approach to digital placemaking, and speak about it for 2 minutes.

As I’m linking this research project to internet radio station I’ve co-set up, I’ve brought in the case for the audio recorder…..but inside in it are some flowers.

To explain why I’ve brought in some flowers, it’d be helpful first to think about the human body. We now have fillings, piercings, laser eye surgery, hip replacements, vaccines, and other perceived enhancements, but there was a time when that wasn’t considered normal at all. One day it might be considered normal to have digitally “enhanced’ flowers, so I want to ask what ethical questions relating to why, how, who, where, what, and when. My approach is to critically question perceived innovations of digital technology, and not just promote it as a good thing to happen.

WHY would it be necessary? E.g. air quality, attract bees, or other ecological purposes, or simply aesthetic?

HOW would the changes be implemented, and who would be consulted and who sanctions this.

WHO would benefit from this, and in whose interest is it to happen?

WHERE would be first crop of ‘enhanced’ flowers be grown and available from? (e.g. in ‘safe’ test spaces, or in the public domain? Which neighbourhoods and why there?)

WHAT would these ‘enhancements be exactly? What are the pros and cons?

WHEN would this start to happen?

I’m conscious that even raising this as a hypothetical question has its own ethical problems. It raises the possibilities of these questions being answered by someone and move towards this be a viable proposal, (even in a domino effect 100 years+ timescale), when I want a rose to remain a rose.


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