What can we learn from digital?
If digital services shape how people work (i.e. Zoom), get around (i.e. Uber), meet others (i.e. Tinder) and go on holiday (i.e. Airbnb), it also creates significant impacts:
- Financially: Several of these platforms can work out cheaper than the previous incumbents, be it hotels or taxis, but also reduce the supply of housing and the wages of people who work for them
- Socially: Dating sites mean you’re more likely to meet someone with your interests and as a result can create homogeneity amongst couples. Platforms are undermining workers’ rights by creating new hybrid forms of worker
How can we design behaviours in digital services that instead mean everyone benefits and shares the social growth they create?
We can learn from how startups like Fairphone are creating ethical forms of mobile phones, or how platform coops are developing more cooperative models of sharing economy like Airbnb or how social startups like Good Gym are combining the benefits of digital matchmaking with supporting people in need.
If consumer services could increasingly be provided “on-demand” either online, in public spaces or in people’s homes, as we’re seeing with the pandemic. what happens if people don’t go to restaurants or the pub anymore, because they can get better quality takeaways or even gigs at their home? Or if public spaces only become spaces to consume and to be marketed to — like the Sidewalk Project was trying to do — so that people become increasingly wanting to consume and dispose of more?
How do you create a better alternative if it’s easier to shop online for the basics? How about high streets that are less “clone town” and have more of a unique character that attracts people — and even is turned into public spaces themselves?
I took part in a workshop organised by NESTA and the insights from that project were turned into an imaginary town where you could see how different people were interacting with these new models which were taking the best from the world of digital and local communities. Take a look!