Posted by: rolfsky | June 14, 2007

advance discussion about OSCON

As mentioned previously, I’ll be presenting at OSCON and it seems like someone is already paying attention. David Crow has posted a positive entry about my upcoming presentation.
What needs does your product satisfy? What assumptions about lower level needs are you making? How does your product make the web a tool to in our inability to store, process, retrieve and transmit massive amounts of information with other humans not near each other?

In response to his post, three comments I’ve posted below speculate how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is possibly so outdated or broken as to be useless. I can understand the criticism if you attempt to take a literal view of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and fit them to the web; attempting to use the hierarchy to explain the web and how it works. In my description of the talk I describe the hierarchy as a “strong filter through which to view … projects and [reveal] interesting results”. In this sense, I’m using the model as a lever to modify and enhance an existing understanding.




1Greg Wilson – 16 May 2007, 14:28

I’m suspicious of anyone using Maslow’s Hierarchy to explain anything, given that it is so often false. People regularly sacrifice personal security for prosperity (take risky jobs for low pay); they also sacrifice survival for things as intangible as flags or their deceased mother’s honor. In fact, I’d argue that the greatest forces for change in society arise precisely when people don’t obey the rules that Maslow made up more or less out of whole cloth in the 1940s…



2michele perras – 16 May 2007, 15:36

maslow’s hierarchy – unfortunately a default in assessing human behaviour, irks me for many for many of the same reasons as greg listed. in addition…

it doesn’t account for agency and empowerment in choice – hence we see sacrifice or reprioritization of needs to achieve a goal. this is usually paradoxical, fluid and can be radically different over the short/long term.

it doesn’t account for morals, cultural values, social norms, there’s an assumption that we all have the same goals and needs and means to achieve them. also, maslow formed his theories around ‘healthy’ people, excluding the “unhealthy” as they would skew his results, and also discounting the affects of interactions and relationships between people and cultures.

and it emerged as a way to perpetuate/mediate a certain economic system and consumption patterns, to keep us all under it’s thumb. production and consumption values have changed, and we need to find other perspectives and tools that will help us understand that change.



3Colin Henderson – 16 May 2007, 20:51

@Greg & Michele .. I would suggest that in todays culture, the concepts that Maslow intended when he spoke of physiological, and safety are so foreign to us that we may have forgotten. The valid issues you raise including security, prosperity, and choice, in the way you might mean, are all in the self-actualisation part of the pyramid, so its quite rational to re-prioritise there.

The decision to take a risky job vs a secure job is not a “will I have a roof over my head decision”.


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