Design for Discomfort: Response #1

October 31, 2018 Design for Discomfort

In almost all of the readings for this week, the themes of obedience and ethics were the ones that stood out the most for me.  While the use of discomfort in art for the purpose of growth is, in my mind, a good thing, it’s also important to remember that we have a duty to the people who participate.  Discomfort for the sake of discomfort isn’t needed, or helpful.  It needs to be a carefully planned tool, rather than used without restraint.

Growth is hard.  Change is hard. As designers, not only do we craft the narrative arc of the experience, we also need to design or implement some sort of aftercare for our users.  I imagine the amount of time needed to come down from the experience would vary depending on the levels of discomfort experienced. 

The shock experiment was surprising in that each of the 40 subjects obediently went past the expected breaking point. Which led me to wonder just how much our childhood and educational experiences condition us to blindly follow authority figures. 

“A friendly reconciliation was arranged between the subject and the victim, and an effort was made to reduce any tensions that arose as a result of the experiment.”

While I appreciate that a reconciliation was arranged, I have to wonder if a short meeting afterwards was enough time to allow the subject to process what had just happened.  My hope is that there was some sort of followup phone call over the next week or so to gauge how the subjects were handling the experience.  Admittedly, I understand that a more in depth experiment, such as the prison experiment would(should)  require a more careful debriefing period.