Intersectional Perspectives on Design, Politics and Power – Session One

Feathers of Hope: A Design Justice Case Study
by Una Lee

In the last decade, “design for social impact” has become a buzzword in the discipline. Yet all design has a social impact, and that impact has historically served the interests of those with greater economic and political power. Designers must become aware of all of their impacts, not just those that are intended to “make the world a better place.” This presentation will introduce the Design Justice Network, a community of design practitioners and community organizers who are urging the design field to engage in critical discourse about how this work perpetuates injustice, and how we might bring justice to design. It will outline the Principles for Design Justice, a collectively written and edited document that underpins the efforts of the Network, and will use these principles as a framework for understanding the design story behind Feathers of Hope: Justice and Juries, a community development initiative centred around Indigenous youth in Canada.

5000times: exploitative mechanisms within the design of smart high-tech products
by Isabel Mager

Design within globalised capitalism runs the risk of generating harm. In this discourse, the production of high-tech devices (smartphones, tablets, notebooks) serves as key example of such harmful effects. The designer is located at a critical point between reinforcing discriminative and inhumane mechanisms while fuelling the very demand for this mechanism to exist: consumption. The author’s study 5000times acts as a foundation for the discussion by conducting empiric experiments around the topic of productive industries and the human body within these. By beginning to de-assemble a high-tech device, a quest began into where and how the human hand has participated in the production of the device. The result of 5000times shows the amount of tasks, which are done manually along the assembly of high-tech products. Re-enacting these tasks as a designer originating from a privileged western context, represents the coherence, reliance and hence accountability of the designer towards the productive mechanism that is being used. The empirical and theoretical research into the topic of high-tech manufacturing unpacked the crucial amount of manual work and the devastating, discriminatory, and exploitative politics under which this work is happening. The study claims that product designers are responsible not only for the experience of the consumer but also for how those who make the designed product are affected by it.

Full paper available here.

Intersectional perspectives on intimate technology, solutionism, and privilege
by Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard

In this text, we discuss if and how an intersectional perspective on design may be critically practiced from a privileged position. More precisely, we ask how intersectional perspectives on race, gender and class may be useful in reflecting on and critically intervening in a privileged, Northern European culture. Our discussion is motivated by considerations into what impact culture and context have on the practice, representation, and reception of critique.

Full paper available here.

Debate (audio)
moderated by Pedro Oliveira






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