Eva Putnam – IDP116 reflection 1

In IDP 116, Reading Response by Eva Putnam

This article dispelled a vague preconception I’d had that the design process is, or should be, performed with a goal of contributing to an ideal future of perfect convenience and sustainability – one automatic sink or solar-powered building at a time. The challenge to build a breastfeeding prosthetic is not a direct step toward this future – in a “perfect” world (with fully utilized, optimally distributed resources – let’s say it’s still in progress, so there is no cure for HIV yet, but they’re working on it), everyone would be perfectly educated on HIV transmission and would therefore understand a relative’s decision to use formula. It’s a snap reaction (and I admit it was mine initially) to think “it’s terrible that people need this – what we really need to do is spread awareness of HIV transmission, plus fight the stigma of having it in the first place”. Of course, many people have had the second part of this thought already and are now working to do just that, but it will take time, and anything involving children’s health can remain a polarizing issue even when information is widely available (see: arguments about vaccine safety in the US) and right now this mother just needs to protect her child’s health while keeping the peace in her family. It takes empathy to understand this. Empathy for the individual drives the design of the prosthetic, and if it improves the mother and baby’s lives, the world is better than it was before.