Over the past six months, I have been working actively across tech, design and social innovation sectors to explore the role of design and designers in uncovering the ‘black boxed’ culture of data-enabled service productions. Here, I lay out the challenges we are seeing in today’s tech landscape — its failure for transparency, inclusion and fairness — and propose ‘Service Design Activism’ as a way to democratise digital service innovation practice.

This is part one of the series ‘Demystifying the black box: innovating Big Data through Service Design Activism.’ Stay tuned for part two!

Where ‘data’ exists in our everyday life (see bottom for image sources)

We have all witnessed the power of data: Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data breach, Russian interference of Trump campaign and China’s social credit system are just a few of the many tech scandals that have left a profound impact on people’s lives. It is almost difficult to predict what the next big scandal is — yet here we are, inseparable from our digital devices, exposing, sharing and communicating our personal stories in an online pool saturated with data.

Why the discussion on future is already producing inequality

Prompt cards from Koreo Futures event (taken from Koreo’s Twitter)

I’ve had the pleasure of attending an event, Koreo Futures: Exploring the Future of Meaningful Work hosted by Koreo in early March. I would like to share some of the insights I gained from the event on the topics of AI and social change.

The rise of emerging technologies are disrupting the current socio-cultural paradigms, influencing the way we expose, share and communicate our daily lives. At this peak moment in time, the discussion of “future” seems to be taking various avenues; for some, its utopic, while for others, it’s dystopic. At this evening event, Koreo took a complete twist…



私は現在ロンドン芸術大学セントラル・セント・マーチンにて修士課程(MA) イノベーション・マネジメントというコースを学んでいます。この紹介文だけで、「イノベーション・マネジメントとは何ぞや?」と毎回聞かれるのですが、言葉足らずなせいもあり、あまり上手く説明できていません。簡単にまとめると、イノベーションの起こし方・それに関わるリソース(人・アイデア・ツール・プロセス等)のマネジメントの勉強です。その手法は内容・コンテキストにより様々です。よって、深い専門知識・経験・スキルはもちろんのこと、それよりも多様なジャンルについての幅広い知見を持ち合わせている人材であることが求められます。(いわゆる「T型人材」ですね)


そもそも「デザイナー」の仕事とはなんでしょう。日本でメジャーなのはグラフィック、ウェブ、インテリア、エディトリアル、最近だとUXデザインやサービスデザインも普及して来ました。そんな私は東京で3年間、インハウスのグラフィックデザイナーとして働いていました。主な内容は広告媒体・ブランディングデザインです。全体のプロセスで見ると、アウトプット専門の人間ですね。では誰のためにデザインをしているのか。最終的に手に渡るのは一般の顧客ですが、デザインの決定権を持っているのは会社の社長です。よくある流れですね。しかし、ここには大きな問題が。顧客のニーズに合わせて作るものなのに、顧客から全く遠い存在の社長がデザインの決定を下しているのです。そもそもユーザーリサーチや、マーケットリサーチ、トレンドリサーチをする者もいません。リサーチャーがいなければ、戦略をしっかり立てれる者もいません。そして、それらがなければ、ニーズや環境に沿ったデザインができる者がいません。そんな中、私のポジションはなんだったのか。いわゆる、「ソフトウェアが扱える」人間です。何をあがいて、必死で “おしゃれ風”なものを制作していても、モノの決定権が社長の好き・嫌いがベースの鶴の一声である以上、ソフトウェアは扱えても、デザイナーにはなれないのです。


デザインが一種のコミュニケーションツールであるのならば、もちろん発信相手のことを考える必要も出てきます。デザインに詳しい方だったら人間中心設計(“Human-Centered Design”)という言葉がピンとくるかと思います。要は顧客にとって扱いやすい・易しい・楽しい etc. デザインであるか、ということです。当たり前に思えて、ここの橋渡しが欠けていることが意外に多いです。よくありがちなのが、ただおしゃれだからという理由でデザインをしたり、エージェンシー側だと、クライアントに気に入ってもらえるものをデザインしたりと、こんなシチュエーションを多々見ます。



Fun ways to conclude your published work (found in Adam Greenfield’s Radical Technologies)

2017 has been an year full of literature adventures, thanks to my MA Innovation Management course, the school library, the £50 Foyles gift card and of course, recommendations from my fellow book-worm friends. So in no particular order, here’s a quick summary of the “mind-opening” (not just the eye) books that I have been fortunate enough to indulge on last year.

Without a doubt one of the most thought-provoking readings on emerging technologies that I have ever encountered in my life. What sets his books apart from other tech-related books is not only the depth of his knowledge but more…

In the world overabundant with ideas, processes, materials and tools, how do we ensure that our offering is not another lazy and meaningless tech-driven solution?

At RSA Student Design Workshop (taken by author)

“How do we eliminate avoidable domestic food waste in the UK?” At the student design workshop I attended with my fellow colleagues from my course, we were given the following question to design an easy, attractive, social and timely solution that change people’s behaviour and tackle the social issue on food waste. The end result completely shocked me. Exactly 4 out of 5 groups proposed apps that (1) promoted food sharing service and/or (2) provided embedded alert feature for when the food was expiring. …

NEC and Yanaka Coffee collaborate to create blend coffee beans inspired by classic Japanese literature

NEC x Yanaka Coffee “Drinkable Novel” coffee beans (image from PR Times)

When we think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data and all the other emerging technologies, we tend to assume they all operate inside a screen. Take our phones, for instance. This personal device tells us the distance we walked or the number of hours we slept in the forms of bar charts and pie charts. But we are more than what these numbers say. In fact, data has a potential to be transformed into a source of material that could enrich our lives or connect ourselves with others, if only we know how to humanise it. …

Thoughts on data, design and the Actor-Network Theory

I left my home in Yokohama, Japan in the autumn of 2016 to study MA Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins in London, UK. I said good-bye to all of the glorious lifestyle inventions that completely spoiled me — a refrigerator that talked to me when I had left the door open, an automatic bath filling system that alerted me when the bath was ready, a toilet with a warm-seating with an automatic washlet and flushing — and the list goes on. Sure, these objects offered me convenience, comfortability and maybe even luxury. But at the end of the day…

The Flying Grass Carpet, Willy Brandt Platz, Essen during EU Capital of Culture (Studio ID Eddy, 2008)

Cities are changing and expanding faster than ever before. The world is becoming more interconnected whilst rapid societal, cultural, technological and economic transformations are breathing uncertainty and insecurity to the size we cannot control or regulate. In this new status quo, urban interventions must re-evaluate to seek for a more resilient and flexible method to respond to the emerging needs of new land uses, new space availabilities and new city dwellers. This study proposes temporary urbanism as an alternative approach to urban design and planning strategy in the contemporary society of complexity and disjuncture. …

“From Selfie to Self-Expression” Exhibition, Saatchi Gallery, London. (Taken by author)

Facebook greets the morning with “On This Day.” Thursdays on Instagram begin with “#tbt.” The Internet’s sensation over nostalgia seems to know no boundaries. As Michel Foucault stated: “everywhere that power exists, it is being exercised” (Foucault and Deleuze, 1972).

Foucault argues that human subjects are constructed, not naturally born (Rose, 2001). Our thoughts, actions and the understanding of the world are shaped by a set of statements in which he describes as “discourse” (Danaher, Schirato and Webb, 2000). Discourse exists in a form of language and practice that govern the way meanings are discussed and reasoned about (Hall, 2001).

Megumi Koyama

A designer + researcher + strategist. Graduate of CSM MA Innovation Management // #designforgood #techforgood https://megumikoyama.myportfolio.com/

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