Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World

London’s Design Museum in Kensington has a thought-provoking exhibition called, ‘Fear & Love’. The exhibition beautifully encapsulates the growing fear and love of technological change and the role of design. It suggests that there are no simple answers, design is both part of the problem and part of the solution.

The exhibition shows 11 installations from around the world that individually inspires anxiety and optimism for the developments and output of design. Do you worry about robots taking our jobs? Are social networks changing the way you behave? Do you love fast fashion but fear the environmental consequences?

There were three installations that really stood out to me, an audio visionary installation about GPS (specifically on Grindr), an industrial robot and wearable tech that demonstrates people’s emotional states.

GPS is still a relatively new phenomenon. Not only has it transformed the way we navigate around cities, it’s also changed the way we socialise and find romance. In this multi-media installation, Adres Jacque documents the emergence of Grindr. It was the final episode that struck a chord with me. It explored how Grindr was used by Syrian refugees bound for Europe to help them find other Syrian refugees. It opened my eyes to how technology could be used to help people not feel isolated, a feeling that I often associate with technology – heads down and no one looking up to actually interact with each other in person.

Speaking of human interaction, what will the impact of robot development be on interaction? How much can a robot really show emotion? Will robots make us a less emotional society? Mimus, an industrial robot, weighing 1200 kilogrammes, can sense and respond to a visitor’s presence. The playful interaction shows the human/personable potential of robots. Has it completely put my mind at rest? No. But it has made me think about the potential design opportunities in the future.

Trapped and repressed in your thoughts? Conforming to London’s expectations and pressures? How many of us expose our vulnerable side? Ussain Chalayan created two wearable devices (a belt and sunglasses) to reveal the state of mind to the outside world. The pieces were developed for Spring/Summer catwalk show 2016. For Chalayan, the accessories are expressive tools more than commercial products, making our emotions a matter of public discussion.

The exhibition identifies the growing concerns and challenges we face in the ever-evolving world of design and technology, but hopefully, like me, you will see the exhibition as one that should make us question how we use and see design and technology. When used by us it can unlock a door of endless opportunities, but when it uses us then that is when it becomes the problem.

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Laura Woolfenden

Laura Woolfenden is an Associate Director on the Google account. She’s never shy to give her opinion to achieve the best outcome and loves to walk in other peoples’ shoes and truly immerse herself in their footsteps - what they might see, think and feel and why, applying their journey to find communication solutions.

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