De-Computation is part of the Information Experience Design programme at the Royal College of Art, London.

There seems to be a growing anxiety, even grudging acceptance, that computers are taking over the world. Some feel we have already lost control of our systems of food, finance, social interaction and economic life to increasing automation and complexity. Some go even further. Artificial intelligence and the internet are making us stupider. Smart objects, buildings and cities make for dumb humans, in a perverse role reversal –those calculating machines that were supposed to liberate us from drudgery have instead made us their automatons, and we’re staring into screens all day, trying to keep up, conforming to machine rhythms.


Maybe computers are our natural evolutionary successors, destined to carry our bio-engineered genes (and perhaps those of other species) into future new forms, star systems, and levels of intelligence. Maybe we should simply accept this, continuing to help them advance, and meanwhile making our species’ limited time on Earth comfortable and enjoyable. Whether you feel enthralled or enslaved by machines and algorithms, you’re reading this because you want to understand them, either to bend them back to human will or push back against them.


We have developed something we call “de-computation”. It’s a methodology and a mindset which we’ve found applies effectively to studying things, making things, communicating information, and wider activities like formulating a strategy or running a business. As the title suggests, de-computing means pushing back against technologies by turning our attention to real-world phenomena, processes, systems and materials.


Read more: Walker, K. and Fass, J. (2015) De-Computation: Programming the world through design. NORDES, June 2015, Stockholm, SE.