Mapping new technologies for society

Master thesis || Online version of the Nano World Map

In my Master graduation project I worked as an intern for the Rathenau Institute. I investigated the integration of design for debate and technology assessment. Technology assessment is a research field where the impact of technology on society is studied and communicated. Design for debate is an approach where design is deployed to ask questions about facts or values. I explored these topics in the context of the Nano supermarket and at the Rathenau Institute. The Nano supermarket is a design for debate exhibition about nanotechnology with future nanotech products that can be on the market within 10 years. The Rathenau Institute investigates the impact of technology on society and is commissioned by the Dutch government to broaden the debate about new technologies.

For the Nano supermarket I designed the Nano World map as a product that was sold at the exhibition and communicates that nanotechnology is not just a trend in material science but has a much larger impact. I investigated more than hundred speculative, emerging, and established products and mapped them in an imaginative world map with ‘markets’ as countries, ‘issues’ as mountains, and ‘fundamental concepts’ as seas.

The new technology wave

I designed a graphic template for a slideshow presentation at the Making Perfect Life conference at the European Parliament in Brussels that was organized by the Rathenau Institute. The graphics communicate the ‘new technology wave’ which is a title for the current technological developments that are happening. These developments were reviewed through two mega-trends (‘biology becoming technology’ and ‘technology becoming biology’) in the Making Perfect Life project by the Rathenau Institute. The ‘new technology wave’ was further used to design an interactive version of the graphics and develop a design for debate.

Link to presentation

These design activities gave me insight in combining ‘design for debate’ and ‘technology assessment’. The designs (Nano World Map & presentation graphics) were mainly interesting regarding the integration of design in ‘technology assessment’ practice. I developed a framework to provide a good picture of the integration of ‘technology assessment’ methodology in ‘design for debate’ practice. To exemplify this framework I designed a tool that helps designers to specify the political values of a ‘design for debate’.

You can buy the map here.