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“Design Justice”

Okay so!

This is a two-parter. We have been thinking through representation and diverse human experiences throughout this semester. What it means to have people from minoritized communities building and designing the technology with inclusivity in mind, rather than the assumed white-male-abled baseline. 

Part one: I want you to check out this tactile chemistry kit created by a blind researcher. It brings up a few fundamental ideas about access (how color coded molecules are inaccessible) and community guided solutions (the researcher who collaboratively created this created it from a need of her own).

Part two: I want you to read Professor Costanza-Chock’s piece that considers “design justice” through the lens of a design challenge and how “​​these challenges often bring visibility to issues affecting vulnerable communities but do not consult those communities, leading to solutions that don’t work locally”https://nextcity.org/urbanist-news/entry/to-truly-be-just-design-challenges-need-to-listen-to-communities

From the piece:
It is not that new technologies are useless, that design challenges are a waste of time, or that existing solutions are always sufficient. Instead, we must recognize that wherever there are problems, those most affected have nearly always already developed solutions; that existing solutions that come from those most affected are likely to have the advantage of being based on local materials, skills, and infrastructure; that people who are from, and work directly with, the most affected communities should be included in and control design processes that are meant to benefit them; that sometimes (although not always) external resources can best be used to support, improve, scale, and/or reduce the costs of existing, locally created solutions; that barriers are often not about a particular tool or object, but are social, cultural, and economic in nature.

So how can you think through a design solution in your field that takes design justice into account? Maybe you self-identify as someone with an intersectional minoritized identity (like, me! I’m autistic and queer and simultaneously recognize my white privilege) and long for a mechanism that makes your learning/life easier. Tbh my fierce belief in design justice came because of my own experiences as someone who needed learning accommodations and never had the courage to ask. What can you create in your field that would make your life and the lives of other people more easeful?

1 Comment

  1. When I chose Electrical Engineering major, I thought we will learn more about today’s technology with basic theory and more hands -on experience. My doubt was cleared after my first calculus course. It was all math and deep concepts of science. So far, I have around 80 credits but very little lab experience. Covid is the main reason behind it but not all. I like the idea of designing new equipment, cars or gadgets for people. Designing in a way, that it could be accessible for all and efficient in performance. Our daily usage of electricity has also increased, therefore batteries needed for total redesign, because they die out very quickly. No one should be looking for a outlet to charge their cell-phone/headphones at every now and then. Necessity is mother of invention and it is now necessary to apply those great ideas from the science books and make it a reality.

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