A vital perspective on technology, innovation, and design

Have to recommend the Canadian documentary, The Corporation, which offers a vital and powerful perspective on the nature of corporations and, particularly, their institutionalized structure, role, and obligations in society. Sure, it ignores the social benefits of organized accomplishments, but a “fair and balanced” approach does not help if you want to get a glimpse into the heart of darkness. And the corporation’s heart is pretty dark. Whether you’re an activist or an aspiring capitalist, a designer or a consumer, in academia or in business, you need to answer (for yourself) the questions this documentary poses. For example, “what am I going to do about it.”

The film takes an “organizational design” perspective to diagnose the corporation and its structurally-induced pathologies. The film argues persuasively that organizations are the way they are because their decision-makers are obliged (often legally) to maximize profit by, among other things, ignoring the social and environmental costs for which they can not currently be held accountable. This creates the both the tragedy of the commons, in which individuals and firms plunder common, or shared, resources because they are “free,” and it’s inversion, where individuals and firms dispose back into the commons newly created and harmful resources (e.g., carcinogens, pollutants, emissions, &c) because, again, it’s relatively costless to do so.

Anyone hoping to make a difference in the world through technology and its design should watch this flick.