Time Well Spent: A Movement for Better Design

Chris Hornung '18

Tommies Unplugged is about helping students at St. Thomas improve their relationship with technology. We want to educate students on apps, services, and behaviors that will help them leverage their devices to be the most productive and mindful students they can be. We typically talk about settings tweaks and behavioral changes that students can improve, a sort of working with the technology at the surface. Another movement though, is taking on technology improvement at a much deeper level! Time Well Spent is a movement started by Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. Time Well Spent aims to fundamentally change the way app makers design their products to allow for a more human directed user experience! Check this video out! If you have the time, I recommend you watch the entire playlist. If you don't have time you could always save the videos to your Pocket and watch them later!

Now, I still think that after optimizing your device settings and a little extra will power distractions from technology can be kept to a minimum, but what if our technology didn’t offer us any distractions? What if the default settings for a given app or service were tailored specifically to supply us the most benefit and the least distraction? Forget about just the default settings. What if the sole purpose of the application was to improve our lives? Think of how much more meaningful work we could get done! Think of how much more free time we would have! To Harris, this goal isn’t out of our reach. He explains that software developers have the capability to control all of the elements of their products from start to finish. With some forethought and planning, Harris thinks future apps and software can only be better!

Time Well Spent arrives at an important time in history. An organization critically thinking about how technology can be designed with humanity in mind will set the stage for important conversations about technology in the future. With the rise in capability of artificial intelligence, genomics, and big data analysis, these conversations will only become more important as we continue to discover how properly designed products and services can benefit society as a whole.


More information on Time Well Spent:


The Binge Breaker – The Atlantic

Tristan Harris TED Talk

For more information and tips on how to improve your relationship with technology visit the Tommies Unplugged webpage at stthomas.edu/wellness