Hello everyone! I’m a designer who recently finished an MBA in psychology, and my graduation work was the creation of a science-based design guide for technology that supports human flourishing. I’m calling it Human Flourishing Design Guide (HFDG).
For obvious reasons, I’d like to share the guide here with you all, but I believe one reason is particularly important: the guide I developed was intended to be an “upgrade” of the Humane Design Guide (HDG) developed by the CHT. I’m assuming that some people here are already familiar with the HDG - maybe even using it in your own projects - and I would be immensely grateful if some of you could share your opinions and suggestions of improvements for the HFDG.
The HFDG tries to accomplish the following challenges:
- Provide a pragmatic, easy to use guide for designers and technologists to develop technologies that enable human flourishing.
- Introduce a measurable, science-based concept of human flourishing in technology development practices.
- Advocate the idea that technologies doing anything less than supporting human flourishing have no reason to exist.
The intention to develop technologies that enable human flourishing is not new to this community or people interested in a world with humane technology. This very own community defined human flourishing as the ultimate goal of technology on the Pyramid of Humane Technology. Aza Raskin, form the CHT, also mentioned that we want human flourishing as the inverse of the human downgrading provoked by the current state of technology.
My work is based on Corey Keyes’ research on mental health, which concludes that “anything less than flourishing mental health is associated with impaired functioning both for those with a mental illness and individuals free of a mental illness” (KEYES, 2013). Therefore, I suggest that any technology that does less than contributing to the user’s flourishing has the same value as an explicitly harmful technology. In other words, there’s no “neutral” tech.
However, the lack of definition of what human flourishing is during the development of technology makes the evaluation of its flourishing potential and/or effectiveness difficult and problematic. Having only subjective definitions for what human flourishing is makes it easy for organizations behind the technology to define it and argue in favor of their own agendas. Thus, the lack of a commonly accepted definition of flourishing is partially an ethical issue.
But it is also a pragmatic one. Being the technology development an objective practice, will also be the methods and techniques resulting in a flourishing enhancing tool. Therefore, we need an operational definition of flourishing in order to conceive these methods and measure their effectiveness.
Luckily, the study of human flourishing has strongly evolved on the science of well being during the past few decades, and we’ve been able to see the emerging of operational definitions of flourishing and measurement scales and techniques. In particular, the discipline of positive psychology, which has grown popular in this new millennia, has the promotion of human flourishing as it’s the ultimate goal.
Maybe the most popular model proposed by the positive psychology, the PERMA model for human flourishing, defined by Martin Seligman, was the one adopted in the elaboration of the HFDG. According to PERMA, human flourishing requires high levels of positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.
Therefore, the HFDG was designed to guide the technologist define a value proposition for the technology that elevates one or more elements of the PERMA, while also providing a direction on how this should be accomplished, based on theories of positive psychology interventions and positive psychotherapy. Long story short, while the HDG focuses on human vulnerabilities, the HFDG focuses on “human strengths” (more precisely, Character Strengths and Virtues).
The whole work was made in Portuguese, my primary language, and so far I was only able to translate the guide itself to English. I’m planning to translate the dissertation in the near future so people interested in the science behind it can understand it, review it, or criticize it.