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Omnipresent technology can overwhelm the people who use it.  Cyborg anthropologist and designer Amber Case insists that technology must become more respectful of people's time and attention. She describes the “principles and patterns” of so-called calm technology, provides tools and real-world examples of technology that fails to account for the human element, and discusses how to design this technology to interact more effectively with people. 


What Is “Calm Technology”?

Technology has transformed how people live. Most of the transformation has been positive, bringing computing power and information into the palm of your hand in your home, car and workplace. Yet technology can be frustrating and can intrude to make life more complex. Users often encounter frustration trying to complete even simple technological tasks.

Enter calm technology, a philosophy researchers Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown originally developed and wrote about at Xerox PARC in the 1990s. Calm technology represents a series of “principles and patterns” that focus on the human side of technology. It seeks to make using technology seamless, based on how people interact with the world. Good technology shouldn’t be intrusive; it should “disappear” into the background and communicate with users only when necessary.

Calm technology didn’t receive a lot of attention when Weiser and Brown published their paper. But now, the growth of technology in everyday life in the early 21st century requires revisiting calm technology to guide designers...

About the Author

Cyborg anthropologist and user-experience designer Amber Case studies how new technologies increasingly shape people’s values and culture.

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