Fostering connection in an increasingly disconnected world

Two robots smiling and happy while joining hands.

When I think about the progress of humanity, even though studies say that we are better off than in the past, it often feels like we are worse off. I had thought that it could be because we have all the technology that enables us to connect and empathise with others more than we ever could, but this article has introduced me to what is known as the great paradox of life.

One thing is certain, technology has its role to claim in increasingly dividing people into groups and factions, and amplifying the kinds of behaviours that can ruin rather than strengthen the thread that connects people.

In his talk, Christiaan talks about how people and businesses are often built linearly and in isolation, very unlike nature which operates in a more cyclic way — everything is connected. One thing feeds into another, and then the other.

How do we carry over this mindset into our world, into the products and businesses we create?

One way is to compare products against a product dimension checklist. This way, Christiaan says, we will be more likely to create products that have meaning and serve a purpose.

I think this can be carried out not just in products, but in any establishment, community or ideology we want to propagate.

But while I applaud Christiaans talk, I have something to add. There’s an optical illusion that’s well known in design and psychology. If you show a colour, say yellow, on its own, many people will have no issues identifying it. But the real fun begins when you pair yellow with another colour. Many people may not be able to say that the yellow is the same in each picture.

Don’t believe me? You can try it out yourself. In the image below, are A and B the same shade of grey?

A cylindrical shape casts a shadow on a black and white checker board. The letters A and B are written on two of the squares.

Yes, they are.

A cylindrical shape casts a shadow on a black and white checker board. The squares which have the letters A and B are proven to be the same colour by being places alongside a grey colour card.

Just like colour seems to change in different contexts, a good note about meaningful products, environment and community changes in direction when brought into the context of stomach infrastructure, in order words, individuals looking out for themselves and their families’ next meal and future.

What context can we then put stomach infrastructure into to illuminate and perceive it in a way that we can identify and solve for?

In the movies where they have a villain and a hero, this only seems to happen when a threat to life or sustenance is achieved. And yet, we have been living in a threat to humanity with climate change and polluted rivers and lands.

While the benefits of creating meaningful products can stand fine on their own, I think that we will truly begin to make a move when we expose and begin to identify the illusion between meaningful products, communities and environments, and stomach infrastructure.

For now, you can start by using this checklist I have created from Christiaan’s talk to find out how much meaning your products embody.

Have a great week ahead!

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Adaku Nwakanma

Adaku Nwakanma

I write about digital product design.