Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Susan's Day Out

Design Fiction by Anonymous

It was a sunny summer day. Susan was late with her council tax payment. She’s normally very punctual making payments – but had fallen behind because she was in hospital following a hip-replacement. Susan is 75, is an anxious person and doesn’t get on with technology – but she finds encounters with people stressful too. So it’s Hobson’s choice. Pay online or visit the council offices in person? After some thought she decides on the latter as she might have some explaining to do!

When she gets to the council offices, she finds there are two entrances to the department she needs to visit. One of these doorways indicates that she will be ‘sensed’. Information deduced about her emotional and physical needs and forwarded on to help with her request. Going through the second doorway would enable her to access services without being sensed – but she would have to wait much longer to be seen. Her grandson, who is studying computing, tells her stories about hackers and trolls that make her anxious. But she is in a hurry, and wants to avoid the need to queue – just to get it over with quickly. So she enters the doorway with Sensorised Customer Access. In the confined corridor, she can feel her anxiety escalating – the camera seems like a bloated eye judging her and she hurries to the exit door at the far end. Coming out into a lobby she looks around, and can see people queuing for assistance. But Susan, to her relief, is approached by a member of staff who regards her sympathetically and takes her to a vacant cubical where they both sit down. The clerk says that she realised that Susan’s is anxious, and helps Susan to quickly resolve the payment. She tells Susan that the computer notified her of her presence, and of her anxiety, and how she hopes that she is now reassured that everything is ok.

As Susan leaves, she’s so relieved and happy that she bypasses the display that it tries to attract her attention to ask if she wants the data deleted - she doesn’t want to be upset by a further scary interaction. Without a specific instruction, the local authority does the right thing, which in a utopian scenario is to (a) keep the data to help with improvement with services; or (b) takes a default position of deleting the data.

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