We are at an important technological inflection point. Most of our computing systems have been designed and built by professionally trained experts (i.e. us computer scientists, engineers, and designers) for use in specific domains and to solve explicit problems. Artifacts often called "user manuals" traditionally prescribed the appropriate usage of these tools and implied an acceptable etiquette for interaction and experience. A fringe group of individuals usually labeled "hackers" or "nerds" have challenged this producer-consumer model of technology by hacking novel hardware and software features to "improve" our research and products while a similar creative group of technicians called "artists" have re-directed the techniques, tools, and tenets of accepted technological usage away from their typical manifestations in practicality and product. Over time the technological artifacts of these fringe groups and the support for their rhetoric have gained them a foothold into computing culture and eroded the established power discontinuities within the practice of computing research. We now expect our computing tools to be driven by an architecture of open participation and democracy that encourages users to add value to their tools and applications as they use them. Similarly, the bar for enabling the design of novel, personal computing systems and "hardware remixes" has fallen to the point where many non-experts and novices are readily embracing and creating fascinating and ingenious computing artifacts outside of our official and traditionally sanctioned academic research communities. But how have we as "expert" practitioners been influencing this discussion? By constructing a practice around the design and development of technology for task based and problem solving applications, we have unintentionally established such work as the status quo for the human computing experience. We have failed in our duty to open up alternate forums for technology to express itself and touch our lives beyond productivity and efficiency. Blinded by our quest for "smart technologies" we have forgotten to contemplate the design of technologies to inspire us to be smarter, more curious, and more inquisitive. We owe it to ourselves to rethink the impact we desire to have on this historic moment in computing culture. We must choose to participate in and perhaps lead a dialogue that heralds an expansive new acceptable practice of designing to enable participation by experts and non-experts alike. We are in the milieu of the rise of the "expert amateur". We must change our mantra: "not just usability but usefulness and relevancy to our world, its citizens, and our environment". We must design for the world and what matters. This means discussing our computing research alongside new keywords such as the economy, the environment, activism, poverty, healthcare, famine, homelessness, literacy, religion, and politics. This talk will explore the design territory and potential opportunities for all of us to collaborate and benefit as a society from this cultural movement.
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