Managing social impact in design: Tools and methods for anticipating consequences of technology

Jantine Bouma

Research output: Ph.D. ThesisPhD Research external, graduation external

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We need look no further than the use of email communication, mobile phones and cars to understand that technology has wide-ranging social consequences. What is more, designers are plainly not always aware of the social consequences of technology, despite practicing user-centred design. Email, for instance, was developed as an efficient mode of communication between two actors. As we all know, the introduction of email has fundamentally changed traditional business and office practices. These side effects were not identified until long after email was introduced. During recent years, designers have grown increasingly interested in these social aspects. Modern information technology, in particular, creates extensive possibilities to influence social behaviour. Persuasive technology has been developed to increase, e.g., environmental friendliness. Once a designer aims at defined social changes, the consequences of technology for practices become a responsibility, too. The present research is aimed at providing tools and methods to anticipate social consequences at an earlier stage of the design process. These consequences of technologies in social environments will be called social impacts. In order to be a meaningful concept for designers the characteristics of a particular technology that are responsible for social impacts must be identified. Social consequences of technologies have not been observed very thoroughly from a user-centred design point of view. Therefore, this thesis is aimed, not only at gaining knowledge about social impact, but also translating these insights into workable instruments for designers. This leads to the following research questions:
1. What relations can be identified between social impacts and characteristics of
2. How can a designer anticipate social impact?
3. How can social impact be managed in design environments?
Original languageEnglish
  • Verbeek, P. P. C. C., Supervisor, External person
  • Poelman, W.A., Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-00654
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • design
  • social impact
  • technology


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