Designing emotion into objects has always been core skill of Industrial Design. Well designed objects create an emotional connection with their owners, objects their owners care for and hold on to for longer. How do we design emotion and develop relationship with the objects of the shared economy? 

Countless startups are developing services to move these once possession based objects into a shared economy. For this new economy to thrive consumers must learn to care for their the objects of the shared economy the same way the care for their own. This is currently not the case. In 2017 a Chinese umbrella sharing startup lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrella in a matter of weeks. In Australia users of the recent oBike dock-less bike sharing program have reported finding bikes up trees or in rivers. Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle has had enough of the city's oBikes, signalling he will run them out of town unless the Singaporean parent company can control its wayward fleet. Why do we not respect these objects the same way we do our own. 

 How do we develop relationships with these objects that are only transient in our lives?

From my interviews asking individuals what objects are most meaningful to them, the top object was not even an ‘object’ at all, it was photos. Although traditionally a tactile object, photos today fare information stored in a hard drive or cloud. They are not so much possessions as they are a set of memories in information. It may be possible that the most meaningful relationships we have today are information driven.

This insight enables us to design emotion into the objects of the shared economy, be it cars, bikes, homes or umbrellas.

Exploring the car as a case study - cars have always been a two way relationship. If you look after it - it will cost less in maintenance, its appearance will make you look better, and in the end it will have a higher resale value. How do you retain a relationship with the object?

Taxi drivers have alway had the agency to reject a customer. Uber drivers have also, to the surprise of many passengers, had the agency to reject passengers. Just as the passenger is able to rate the driver, so too is the driver able to rate the passenger. After being notified of a new pickup, the driver is given the passenger rating. If it is bellow average (4.6 stars) the driver will likely decide the fare is not worth while, skip the passenger and just pick up the next. The human agency of these systems, in a way, enforces good behaviour. What autonomy will autonomous vehicles have to accept or reject passengers? The new found autonomy of the autonomous vehicle gives it a new form of agency. No longer a reflection of human agency, the automobile now has the ability to make choices for itself. In a way, the automobile has agency over its user.

Exploring the autonomous vehicle service as a case study. As soon as you request the can it associates with you. For example personalising position of the seat, the music, and in the future possibly the colour, the decoration or the form of the vehicle. The aesthetic of the car 

After the car is docked back into the shared economy, the information associated to the aesthetic, persona and relationship of your umbrella is uploaded to the cloud. 

When you next pick up your next ride, bike, umbrella, or any other object of a shared economy for that mater, the information is downloaded, making the object personal and theirs. Users no longer own a physical object. They own the relationship with the information that makes the object personal to them. However if the shared object is damaged, lost or stolen the information in not updated and the relationship with the object is lost.

Louis Elwood-LeachComment