Reflections on the community's Mission Statement and 'brand image'

community-principles
community-building

#1

Original title: This is not ‘Make Technology Great Again’

I was showing some people unfamiliar with the Time Well Spent and Humane Technologies movement the Humanetech.com website today and I was struck by this picture on the home page:

It’s a black and white image of a caucasian girl in what appears to be 1950’s garb leaning out the window. This image appeals to American nostalgia in a way that I think is incongruous with the mission of Humane Technology. This movement should not be a movement about nostalgia or making technology great again. Yes, we need to be thinking about ways to design our systems that facilitate more person to person interaction, and people that lived in the era of the girl featured on the home page probably had more in person conversations that a teenager today. However there are countless ways technology has made life a lot better than it was in the era of the girl on the home page. I hope this movement can be about celebrating and directing what is good about technology and regulating what is dangerous. I don’t think appealing to nostalgia is going to help this movement gain credibility with the young people that need it the most. I strongly recommend HumaneTech.com take some time to design a homepage the symbolizes how great the future can be if technology is aligned with humanity’s best interests.

This could be a good platform for recommending better ways to represent the movement. Please reply with your ideas.

Thanks,
Ryan


#2

Thanks for your thoughts, which were very interesting to read.

The image of the girl can be interpreted so many different ways. To me it is a thinking-outside-the-box image. The girl leans out and looks beyond the boundaries of what is containing her.

She breaks the two-dimensional surface of digital life and asserts herself as a three-dimensional person.

And her expression is a happy, hopeful one.

She could be wearing “1950’s garb” or something else. If you’ve seen the movie First Man, you know it takes place in the 1960s but is so intelligently and artfully made that we aren’t constrained by its temporal setting.

To me, this image does the same. It breaks an old paradigm and creates a new one at the same time.


#3

Interesting observations, Ryan. I enjoyed the nostalgic feeling; to me, it seemed the woman might be leaning out the window to chat (in the old-school sense) with some real live human beings, or watch kids running down the street, or horses in a pasture.

She is white, yes. I would hope that HT would also use imagery that includes people of color, contemporary-looking people, various eras throughout time. I don’t find it problematic to see one image that contains a white person and a homespun, old-fashioned vibe.

For me, the overall design harkens back both to the decades past indicated by black-and-white photography and by the young woman’s hair and clothes… but also to the deeply subversive, collage-based graphics of artists like Winston Smith and Barbara Kruger in the early 1980s. I can’t really see “wholesome” photos like this, used in collage setting, without a healthy dose of irony.


#4

Yes, many interpretations possible :slight_smile:

Looking outside your smartphone, instead of getting absorbed into the device. The black & white color scheme can also refer to the practical advice of the Time Well Spent movement (the predecessor of CHT) to turn your smartphone to black & white to get rid of the seductive color schemes that contribute to addictiveness.

Note also @theeryanwold that the image belongs to the CHT (though the community ocassionally uses it), and that we are developing our own community presence at humanetech.community. This is a crowdsourced project that anyone can contribute to.

Our primary focus is on raising awareness, regulating, and improving, finding and promoting solutions. This includes celebrating applications that are exemplars or Humane Technology. But we will not be a place that extensively follows all new tech innovations to celebrate positive developments.


#6

In examination of the graphic, this thread has omitted the mental image constructed by written language: “Realigning technology with humanity’s best interest”. It has dissected the image and has focused attention on only one physical portion of the graphic. Doing so accumulates to incomplete conclusions about the whole.

it is not, and it has nothing to do with making anything great again.

The visual presentation of words “Realigning technology with humanity’s best interest” creates an idea in the mind of the perceiver. While It does not describe the enormously complex path of this movement, it certainly implies intent of direction and attempts to navigate away from the tendency to dissect, which is certainly a subject of study for CHT because it has a relationship to both, division and awareness.

Is there a way to observe the graphic simply?.


#7

Yes, that is the best, and most obvious interpretation, and probably also how it was intended by the designer. Thank you. Should’ve been obvious for me too, but didn’t come to mind strangely enough :smile:


#8

How?

“Realigning technology with humanity’s best interest” implies a perviously conceived missalignment, the misalignment of lookin into a mobile media device. The person in the graphic is looking out, suggesting a change in direction; away from the conditions that overwhelmingly sustain and encourage the tendency to dissect.

Id be the first to notice

and deduce that the person in the image is too detailed and therefore should be simplified to a point where

Race (Caucasian)
Gender(Girl)
Age range(Girl, not woman)
Time frame (1950’s)

Cannot be identified.

By doing this, I would have designed an image to conform to a standard that reinforces the identification of those attributes through labels and in doing so gives it vitality and continuity.

But we can use this as an exercise in awareness and point attention to how quickly we notice those labels and how they direct though.


#9

Could you please clarify what you mean here? Perhaps you could give an example and explain how it illustrates what you’re talking about.

Thank you.


#10

I agree with the original poster. To met “realigning technology with humanity’s best interests” makes no sense. Technology has never been aligned with humanity’s best interests, and if this 400,000 year old pattern holds it never will be.

Some of the earliest technology was no doubt used to build things but also to kill. Crude stone tools were developed well before language, and I’m sure the inventors didn’t all have the most humane uses in mind. Our first inspiration was a kill or be killed world, where either you ate or you were eaten. As animals, our psychology has always been based off of both interdependence and taking advantage. Humans being a little smarter than other species hasn’t changed that.

Jumping forward a few hundred thousand years and we’ve managed to murder some 80% of all other animals with our technology, polluted all over, but have also managed to improve our own health where most human babies now born in Japan can expect to live past 100 on average.

Companies have been tracking us well before the internet ever existed. Today’s technology is in the similar spirit to what we had in the past, just more of it, more complicated, more pervasive, mode advanced and more difficult (near impossible?) to disconnect.

Instead of looking to “go back” to something that never existed, I strongly believe the solution is to go forward and introduce new human rights. If you think about it, the other human rights we have now evolved rather very recently in human history, and before that rights we now take for granted never used to exist at all. The same will be true for our future human rights regarding technology, privacy, ownership of information about ourselves, and so on. It’s up to us to make these rights happen because some of the technology industry is a human predator and we must protect ourselves.


#11

It depends how you define “realigning”. Realigning to what level? It could be that there used to be a better balance to the ‘harms vs. benefits’ ratio in technological innovations before the digital age with our modern web, social media, etc. That the potential to do more harm with new tech grew linearly or at least less steeply exponential.

(as how you formulated it also touches on the age-old discussion whether technology is neutral, or not)

But overall, you are right, of course. Perfect alignment - if that can be even meaningfully defined - never existed. Maybe you could rephrase the mission statement as “Aligning technology to humanity’s best interests”. Does that make real sense? No. But at least it is clear in its meaning or intent. And - as mission statements go - it is okay if they have something unobtainable, utopic to them. They are meant to give direction and focus.

BTW I have been thinking before in whether this is a mission or rather a vision, and it incentivized me to write a strategy doc for the CHT team, about some confusions I had when reading humanetech.com carefully. Might share that later…

Anyway, it is a mission statement, I think, because it is about the act of aligning. A verb, not an end state (which might be humanity’s ultimate sustainable control of technology development, I dunno).

Note that, however you define, this does not preclude development of new human rights as a proper tool to attain the mission/vision. And we have discussion about that on the forum: Should we officially amend the Human Rights charter to account for tech?


#12

Right you are that realign can also mean a new alignment. Thanks for that though the use if realign is confusing.

My reference to human rights is that all social movements including this one are at their core about human rights. The Center for Humane Technology is a human rights organisation whether they realise it or not, as is every discussion in this forum related to human rights. You may not liken yourselves to Mandela or Gandhi, but actually you’re fighting the same fight. There are freedom fighters, and there are opressors. The crimes committed by the likes of Zuckerburg and Google are ever cruel and clearly inhumane. Your dignity has been assaulted by these monsters, you’ve been treated like mud and even dragged in it by these beasts. It’s time to say my rights have been violated and that needs to be law, because the assault on us is already far beyond acceptable and going to get worse.


Digi Rights: Applying fundamental Human Rights to the Digital Realm
Digi Rights: Applying fundamental Human Rights to the Digital Realm
#13

@Free
A declaration of rights is conceived and proclaimed, but then it must be applied. What has failed in the application of current Universal Declaration of Human Rights since 1948?

by “application” I’m referring to the action of putting something into operation.

Here is another way of asking the same question: What has failed in the action of putting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into operation?


Digi Rights: Applying fundamental Human Rights to the Digital Realm
#14

When “Human Rights,” are mentioned anywhere on this forum, is the reference to Universal Declaration of Human Rights or something else?


Digi Rights: Applying fundamental Human Rights to the Digital Realm
#15

I think both @theeryanwold and you are attributing too much implicit meaning to the image. If it shows anything, it is how identity politics can make any depiction of a human being into something that carries controversy, unless we take meticulous care to abstract it, so not any such meaning can be attached to it. I’d say that ‘simplifying’ so race, gender, age, timeframe cannot be identified would rather dehumanize the image, reducing it to a universal logo, rather than a ‘Hero image’ (a printing term, not refering to the person) to be used on the front page, that is fittingly depicting the mission statement written next to it.


PS. I will continue the discussion on Human Rights in Should we officially amend the Human Rights charter to account for tech?


#16

@aschrijver @patm

With

I am expressing the conditional mood, indicating the consequence of an imagined event or situation. Not expressing desire or inclination.

Here is the fix

Sorry to have caused confusion with unclear language.

I guess another way of saying this is identity politics always tries to influences design. And when design conforms, it enables identity politics. I prefer not to mention “identity politics” because repeating that label gives it vitality and continuity.

Not good since I’ve just repeated it 3 times.


#17

Thanks. No need to be sorry. I find it an interesting exercise to think about this :slight_smile:


#18

Of anything I found it curious that you presumed this was American.


#19

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. I appreciate the feedback that made me think about why I assumed the person in the picture was American or from a particular era in America.

I appreciate the thread of the conversation that questions the word ‘realigning’. I think that word plays a role in propagating the belief that the Humane Technology movement is about returning to something in the past. It makes me think of Yuval Harari’s writing where he talks about how many of the prominent leaders in the world today gain much of their rhetorical power from stirring up nostalgia in their followers for brining their countries back to the height of past glory.

What makes the humane technology movement exciting, important, and extremely difficult is that there is not a clear past era of greatness that we can refer to.


#20

History and its perception and revision, media, memory. I’m sure that very little was as we think it was. Even what we see of the present is a media image and not real. Our minds, our countries, our aims as society very deeply distort the past to our own present needs rather than to any true notion of the past. Yet what really happened in the past is important, if we rely on just the illusions of the past then we are living in fantasy. History is a bit like religion.

So yes I agree again, there isn’t any past great and ethical human technology. But it’s hopefully coming in the future and our work to accomplish here. However though history isn’t on our side we have yet battles that can be won even if winning the War seems highly unlikely.


#21

This thread is a gold mine. The original post author’s thoughts on nostalgia and the new generation are strikingly accurate. We cannot expect the adolescent generation to feel the same through nostalgia because they haven’t ever had that feeling and they cannot relate to it.

While building a social network which encourages in-person interaction my team and I came across this very same problem. We have been trying to present this problem in a way which makes it exciting for the young generation.