Value, System and Design II

The dichotomy in the common perception of value and fact

  • Value is typically perceived as abstract, private and subjective
  • Fact is regarded as concrete, public and objective

Misconceptions of technology

Technology is developed by independent persons based on fact

The first misconception is that technology is developed by independent scientists and engineers based on concrete, public and objective fact.
However designs for most commodities are carried out by either research funded by industry or within the R&D department of a for-profit organization.
A counter example is Shering-Plough's Claritin. The popular antihistamine's patent was due to expire so the company poured millions of dollars into research to isolate the active ingredient so that could be repatented.

The free market chooses the best technology

The next misconception is that the market alone chooses the most efficient and effective technologies to increase industrial productivity and hence profit.
A counter example is the QWERTY keyboard.

Technology is value-neutral

Another misconception is that technology is neutral to human values.


Technological design as an expression of specific values

A technological design is one of the possible solutions to a problem. Which is selected is determined by the values of the designer and/or the client.
An example of this is the Manhattan tenements circa 1900. The developer wanted to build rental housing for the lower-market, so they were constructed with as many units as possible for the smallest lot required.

Street design

Street purpose has historically been defined in functional terms (related to moving the city's automobile traffic measured by the number of vehicles that can be moved along the street over an hour / day).
There is, however, a current movement in urban planning and architectural design where they core concept is to create a living environment that is in human scale. This movement is a response to the problems of urban sprawl. These problems are the result of over-population and industrial pollution.
Public health problems and other concerns lead to four events significantly contributing to urban sprawl.

  • Sanitation reform
  • Housing reform
  • Introduction of 'zoning' system
  • Rise of a new concept of city ('garden city')

Urban sprawl

Urban sprawl is is the spreading of a city and its suburbs over rural land at the fringe of an urban area. Residents of sprawling neighborhoods tend to live in single-family homes and commute by automobile to work. Low population density is an indicator of sprawl. This causes a number of problems, including;

  1. Loss in farmland
  2. Loss in ecological areas (forests, meadows, wetlands)
  3. Infrastructure costs
  4. Other societal impacts; travel cost, quality of life, urban decline, medical impact…

Case study: New Urbanism

Has a number of key concepts…

  1. Human scale; create compact, walkable neighborhoods
  2. Integrate facilities; such as offices, shops, schools, churches, libraries, etc… This will create places to walk and reduce vehicle trips.
  3. Design for densities that can support viable neighborhood economy.
  4. Highlight public spaces as the focus of building orientation and neighborhood activity
  5. Hide car parks; by moving them away from streets and screening them with buildings
  6. Think 3-dimensionally

These concepts are based on a number of key values.

  1. Integrate land use & transportation planning to minimize the number of trips by car and the distances driven.
  2. Create a range of affordable housing opportunities and chioces
  3. Preserve open space around and within the community as working farmland / ecology etc…
  4. Maximize the capacity of exiting infrastructure via reuse (of buildings AND infrastructure) and filling in gaps
  5. Foster a distinctive sense of place as a building block of community development
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