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Innovation through representation
Innovation through representation

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4.5 Representations have a purpose

Representations play a powerful role in innovation processes to support dialogues and debates, by representing material things, people and context. But, as we have seen, they rarely present the whole picture. Representations are created for a purpose, and when they are used to persuade they are created to convey a particular message to a particular audience. Sometimes this necessitates that some facts are omitted from the representation, as illustrated in Figure 17. Sometimes it is necessary to present a message in a manner that stirs emotional response, as illustrated in Figure 18. Sometimes it is necessary to distort reality, as illustrated in Figure 19.

Creating representations to convince others to accept a vision for an innovation can lead to serious ethical questions. Visions typically aim to introduce change, but how can we say that change is desirable, or needed? What implications does change bring and for who? And who is responsible for the consequences? Innovations offer change to something better, and designers and innovators take an active role in shaping this change. When involved in an innovation process our principles of right and wrong (our moral principles) are applied, often unconsciously. But these principles are personal to an individual, and may not be commonly accepted. If an innovation is to be successful and adopted into use, then there needs to be an element of persuasion to encourage others to assent to the principles that underlie the vision, either consciously or unconsciously. New or improved products, services or systems have the potential to affect how people live their lives, and the various representations that we have explored in this section are some of the tools used to convince others that these changes are necessary. There is certainly a need to be aware of the ethical consequence of applying these as tools of persuasion.