Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sunshine Surface

Inventions like this make me worry for society.

The Helen Hamlyn Research Center for Inclusive Design has developed a table with embedded fiber optic cables that emit sunlight transmitted from outside of the building. The Sunlight Table seems like a great idea for people who work in windowless dungeons like call centers because it is widely accepted that humans respond considerably better to sunlight than to the artificial lights that are so common in offices. It would help fight fatigue and likely improve the mood of workers.

However, the reason it is so troubling is - why the f$%& don't we just design call centers that give these people windows or skylights? We are so innovative and creative, but then we spend so much time and effort on items like this that follow the status quo rather than rethinking our attitudes and assumptions. This is design that treats the symptoms and not the problem.

While I love the idea - I just can't help but see this in some sci-fi movie in which people never see real daylight anymore. This just seems like another way to build barriers between people and nature - distancing and alienating ourselves from our planet. Let's spend a thousand bucks on a table that emits sunlight rather than do the humane thing and give employees access to windows, balconies, skylights, etc. I much prefer recent design efforts to bring living rooftops and gardens into urban areas. Unmediated access to nature seems much more effective to me than products that merely "simulate" the outdoors.

I don't mean to criticize this table specifically - but next thing you know we'll have fake bird machines, robotic trees, and simulated grass and be drinking fresh air out of a can.


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