Product Design Aimed at Limiting User Capability

The Canon G3In product development, a great deal of effort is made in specifying a product’s affordances – the capabilities and actions that it will provide to the user. A product developer in the UK recently launched Architectures of Control, a blog that documents the increasing practice of infecting products with ways to restrict, rather than expand, users’ capabilities. He has plenty of material to work with, from examples of planned obsolescence, to crippled software that forces customers toward more expensive options, to anti-skateboarding ribs that can be bolted all over public spaces.

Recently Canon launched the G7 digital camera. The G series has been a flagship brand for Canon, aimed toward prosumers who aren’t looking to plop down $2000 for glass in order to justify a dSLR. When we bought a G3 four years ago, it was considered a ground-breaking model. What does the G7 add to our model that is three generations old (they skipped the G4)? It has a higher resolution sensor that produces marginally better pictures because the smaller pixel size ads noise to the images. What else do we get by ‘upgrading’? The loss of a flip-out, rotatable screen, a slower lens, the removal of RAW support, shorter battery life, and the elimation of a remote control for family photos. All this for only $700. But it comes in a really nice black metal housing.

In other words, too many people were choosing the G series over Canon’s dSLRs and the model needed to be crippled. Canon is removing affordances to drive a more expensive product.

Dan Lockton is seeking a better name for Architectures of Control. My submission is to go with Disaffordances. The major domain names are even available.

1 thought on “Product Design Aimed at Limiting User Capability

  1. griselda

    Canon powershot g3-g6 reminds me of Sony VX100 video camera (a “cult” product of the 90s). Both are products that made accessible good quality and creative features to independent producers, artists and beaver souls. It seams like once in a while companies are touched by some kind of fairy or muse that has the purpose of refreshing communication through democratization of technology, but sooner than later corporations return to their ontological state of greed and the “curse of satus-quo” prevails.

    … “Architectures of control” sounds appropriate to me; English is not my first language and I could not find “Disaffordance” in the dictionary.

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