Things disclose a world, also when they break
In "What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, And Design", Peter-Paul Verbeek writes that:
"Things, in short, disclose a world. (...) But that this is so, according to Heidegger, generally appears only when a handy or ready to hand tool or piece of equipment breaks down. When this happens, the tool suddenly demands attention for itself. The reliable dealings we are used to having with the tool are ruptured, and instead of withdrawing from our attention the tool suddenly forces itself upon us. Someone sits at a word processor focused on the text at hand and all of a sudden the computer freezes. The trustworthy world that developed around the computer – the open book, the keyboard, the screen, the cup of coffee; in short, the entire mutually referring network that Heidegger calls a world – is abruptly destroyed. The computer changes from being one of the handy or ready-to-hand that shape this world to what Heidegger calls something vorhanden: ‘objectively present’ in the newer translation, or ‘present-at-hand’ in the older. Its transparency is transformed into opacity. (...) Only when it starts up again and everything works without a hitch is the world that was destroyed again restored."
Why do I blog this? accumulating notes and insights about issues regarding people's experience of infrastructure for a project about electricity and the internet of things. The topic of breakings and failures is of course a long-time favorite, somehow linked to my fascination towards breakdowns. Beyond this, what I find important here is how to take that sort of unexpected issue into account in the design process, as well as investigating the range of people's reaction. Having a sort of typology (failures reactions) can be a good start.