Thursday, April 23, 2009

Slow IT

Ron Tolido (Capgemini) predicts that 2009 will be the year of Slow IT.

This is based on Carl Honoré's argument (In Praise of Slow) that "the important things in life need to be done at the right pace, with careful dedication and a genuine love for foundation and quality".

And also corresponds to what Albert Borgmann calls a Focal Practice. "Countering technology through a practice is to take account of our susceptibility to technological distraction, and it is also to engage the peculiarly human strength of comprehension, i.e. the power to take in the world in its extent and significance and to respond through an enduring commitment." (Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life, p 210)

Some stakeholders will regard the whole idea of "Slow IT" as provocative or paradoxical. Some people may think IT is already too slow and expensive, so recommending it gets even slower is just crazy. (See The Bart Simpson Effect.)

But sometimes crazy ideas can work. Some therapists use crazy ideas as so-called "paradoxical interventions" - intended to achieve the exact opposite. So if a couple are shouting at each other, the therapist instructs them to shout even more, and that often shocks them into silence. (There's much more to say about paradoxical interventions, but that's another post on another blog.)

But Borgmann's analysis gives us an alternative path. Borgmann introduces the concept of Device Paradigm to explain the logic of "technological distraction" and instant gratification (or "hyperactivity"). What is important for Borgmann is not to revoke technological progress and productivity, but to put them in their proper place. We need to consciously separate those aspects of our life (including working life) where we want to take advantage of technological devices from those aspects of our life where we want to engage properly without undue technological distraction.

In IT (and possibly elsewhere), this kind of conscious separation is the function of architecture.

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