There is a somewhat naive approach towards research within a lot of mainstream HCI/user centred design practice. Whether rooted in gatekeeping or rigour, there can be a bias towards the ‘harder’ aspects – the more theoretically grounded, the more analytical methods applied. However, what sometimes happens is an avoidance or simply an unknowing about the problematics within the methods we often look up to. This is just one of the reasons critical perspectives in sociological sciences are so important to keep up with and why I was particularly intrigued by this paper, shared by Dr Adjepong. It’s freely accessible and would of course recommend you read it!Continue reading “Notes on ‘Invading ethnography: A queer of color reflexive practice’”
Today had too many meetings to actually settle on data analysis (which I really do need to get on with) so designated it as my reading day. As always, I have about 500 tabs, they’re all highly relevant (following an earlier winnowing process would you believe) and someone’s got to read them all.
I’ve found I’m a big admirer of Achiam’s work (The Case for Natural History was one of the first papers I read upon starting as a user researcher at the NHM and made a huge impact on me) and her work always seems dead on to what I’m trying to investigate. Combined with critiques of digital museum content, I think there’s lots of potential for creating effective and self-reflective frameworks to aid a community centred approach for science communication via digital platforms.
Some quotes from the paper that particularly struck me as follows:Continue reading “Notes on ‘The potential of palaeontology for science education’”
Today I learned about the work of the costumbrista Victor Patricio Landaluze, courtesy of Jonathan Square’s amazing page, Fashioning the Self in Slavery and Freedom. According to the post, ‘…his prolific oeuvre is the most detailed visual documentation of daily life of Afro-Cubans in the nineteenth century.’
Here are some examples of his work I’m particularly taken by:
Just a bunch of things I’ve been reading/rediscovering this week. Trying to do this more often to help me document my practice. Two weekends in a row isn’t bad at all! 😀
7 Principal Psychological Phenomena in UX Design – good for those ‘oh yeah I haven’t forgotten how to be an experience designer’ moments.
Shout out to monkik for saving a life! Had to do a bunch of prototyping and their range of icons were perfect
Abbotsford Convent website – Initially I was really taken by the cursor effect, then realised this was just a home page thing (and justifiably so given potential issues with reading content on rest of the site). I like the cut out details on the images, but second time looking at it reminds me how we need truly fluid frameworks for websites to become more genuinely mobile first (which to my mind, means adopting more patterns from mobile apps, especially with respect to differentiating between ‘architectural’ and ‘key action’ navigation).
Trying to clean up my drafts and came across this article on Kirokaze’s work. Funnily enough I think I’ve seen their stuff more recently on youtube as background art for any of the 101 ambient cyberpunk I listen to whilst working. Their portfolio is still pretty cool though.
Museums ‘n’ tings
Some cool links courtesy of the recent Museums and AI talk…
You know, I’d love to do an experiment with AI powered chatbot interfaces for engaging with content but that’s for further down the line.
As is always the case, I have a couple more summatives to write up of some of the research I’ve done at the Natural History Museum. One of these will be focussed on the zine making workshops I ran at a couple of Lates, to inform future research using zines as method. This article, Creativity-based Research: The Process of Co-Designing with Users, is a handy little primer with links to some other references.
Navigating Comics: An Empirical and Theoretical Approach to Strategies of Reading Comic Page Layouts – another one with some good pointers for upcoming research activities on impact of content design/layout and comprehension
Social Studies of Outer Space blog just seems quite cool for speculative research approaches to community.
Differential Dynamic Systems – what? I realised I had to do some serious math revision and this guy’s pretty good.
Algorithmic Humanitarianism – keeping this here as a reference for tech social justice-y research. There’s so many great manifestos and frameworks, would be a shame not to make use of them!
Books to read (if anyone wants to get me a present)
Papers I want but alas I cannot have
Artists and transmission
As Browne discusses, and as Joy Buolamwini, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, technically demonstrates, gender itself is racialized: humans have trained our machines to categorize faces and bodies as male and female through lenses tinted by the optics of white supremacy.
I misread this the first couple of times which led me to think aloud that the idea that types of ‘seeing’ create an analogous identity in the the thing doing the seeing is soooo necessary in order to get away from notions of ‘objective’ analysis/algorithms/information receptors etc.
- We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems.
- We center the voices of those who are directly impacted by the outcomes of the design process.
- We prioritize design’s impact on the community over the intentions of the designer.
- We view change as emergent from an accountable, accessible, and collaborative process, rather than as a point at the end of a process.
- We see the role of the designer as a facilitator rather than an expert.
- We believe that everyone is an expert based on their own lived experience, and that we all have unique and brilliant contributions to bring to a design process.
- We share design knowledge and tools with our communities.
- We work towards sustainable, community-led and controlled outcomes.
- We work towards non-exploitative solutions that reconnect us to the earth and to each other.
- Before seeking new design solutions, we look for what is already working at the community level. We honor and uplift traditional, indigenous, and local knowledge and practices.
Our work is guided by two core beliefs: first, that those who are directly affected by the issues a project aims to address must be at the center of the design process, and second, that absolutely anyone can participate meaningfully in design.”
According to design scholars Robert Hoffman, Axel Roesler, and Brian Moon, the designer as a specific kind of person, or as a profession, emerged with the Industrial Revolution. Until then, knowledge about how to create, use, and maintain specialized tools was transmitted via craft guilds. However, the craft guild model could not support larger-scale designs that required the distribution of skills among many specialists. Accordingly, “this new task—designing for a class of people with whom the designer did not interact—helped mark the origin of industrial design.”50 At this time, they also note, designers took on a new role: “to reshape formerly hand-crafted processes into ones that machines could do. Mass and assembly-line-based production stimulated, or necessitated, the creation of many designs for artifacts aimed at a broad mass of consumers and for machines designed to help in manufacturing other machines.”
Design is also a way of thinking, learning, and engaging with the world. Reasoning through design is a mode of knowledge production that is neither primarily deductive nor inductive, but rather abductive and speculative. Where deduction reasons from the general to the specific and induction reasons from the specific to the general, abduction suggests the best prediction given incomplete observations.
In his recent book Designs for the Pluriverse (2018), anthropologist Arturo Escobar sees design as an “ethical praxis of world-making.”55 He urges us to consider the ways that design practices today too often reproduce the totalizing epistemology of modernity and in the process erase indigenous worldviews, forms of knowledge, and ways of being. Escobar calls for an approach to design that is focused on the creation of a world “where many worlds fit.”
Crenshaw notes the role of statistical analysis in each of these cases: sometimes, the courts required Black women plaintiffs to include broader statistics for all women that countered their discrimination claims; in other cases, the courts limited the admissible data to that which dealt solely with Black women, as opposed to all Black workers. In those cases, the low total number of Black women employees typically made statistically valid discrimination claims impossible, whereas strong claims could have been made if the plaintiffs were allowed to include data for all women, for all Black people, or both. Later, in her 1991 Stanford Law Review article “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,”65 Crenshaw powerfully articulates the ways that women of color often experience male violence as a product of intersecting racism and sexism, but are then marginalized from both feminist and antiracist discourse and practice and denied access to specific legal remedies.
To bear in mind for future writings on dealing with statistical methods in understanding users.
Collins also emphasizes that every individual simultaneously receives both benefits and harms based on their location within the matrix of domination. As Collins notes, “Each individual derives varying amounts of penalty and privilege from the multiple systems of oppression which frame everyone’s lives.”70 An intersectional Black feminist analysis thus helps us each understand that we are simultaneously members of multiple dominant groups and multiple subordinate groups. Design justice urges us to (1) consider how design (affordances and disaffordances, objects and environments, services, systems, and processes) distributes both penalty and privileges to individuals based on their location within the matrix of domination and (2) attend to the ways that this operates at various scales.
Design justice is a framework for analysis of how design distributes benefits and burdens between various groups of people. Design justice focuses explicitly on the ways that design reproduces and/or challenges the matrix of domination (white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, settler colonialism, and other forms of structural inequality). Design justice is also a growing community of practice that aims to ensure a more equitable distribution of design’s benefits and burdens; meaningful participation in design decisions; and recognition of community-based, Indigenous, and diasporic design traditions, knowledge, and practices.
Every now and then I re-read Moor’s 2006 paper ‘Why we need better ethics for emerging technologies‘. It’s become one of those permanent tab items and has been saved in pretty much every cloud platform and external hard drive I own.
Generally, I find it a stark reminder of the stakes when it comes to discussions about ethics of technology, particularly in discussions about inclusive design and the entanglements with capitalist modes of production. My first ‘proper’* paper on critical approaches to design of technology was at the 2018 Techno-Resistance and Black Futures conference, over a decade after Moor’s paper was published, and even then I remember saying that, as we’re sitting in lecture theatres mutually assuring or dismaying each other in turn with our findings, in many ways we’re too late – this stuff is already out there in production, being maintained, gathering data, justifying metrics and changing user’s paradigms; it’s not just in the lab or an interesting thought experiment. One can’t reset complex systems to t=0, so if we’re serious about stopping algorithmic bias etc., then we might need to start acting like it.
Even now, in a time when the amazing Algorithmic Justice League is much more familiar to people of tech, we still get news stories like this wherein a Microsoft AI was (in the process of being tested on an unsuspecting public) revealed to be incapable of differentiating between two famous women of colour.
But whilst Moor’s paper is generally a healthy reminder that we still have a very long way to go, different things will stick out depending on my mood.
‘‘Technology’’ is ambiguous. When speaking of a particular kind of technology, such as airplane technology, we sometimes refer to its paradigm and sometimes to its devices and sometimes to both. A technological paradigm is a set of concepts, theories and methods that characterize a kind of technology. The technological paradigm for airplanes includes the concept of a machine that flies, the theory of aerodynamics, and the method of using surfaces to achieve and control flight. A technological device is a specific piece of technology. The Wright brothers’ airplane and commercial jetliners are examples of technological devices. Technological devices are instances or implementations of the technological paradigm. Technological development occurs when either the technological paradigm is elaborated in terms of improved concepts, theories, and methods or the instances of the paradigm are improved in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, safety, etc. Of course, technological development has occurred in numerous technologies over thousands of years.
But in some cases technological development has an enormous social impact. When that happens, a technological revolution occurs. Technological revolutions do not arrive fully mature. They take time and their futures, like the futures of small children, are difficult to predict. We do have an idea of how children typically develop and likewise I believe we have an idea of how revolutions typically develop. I will try to articulate that conception in terms of a plausible model of what happens during a typical technological revolution.
This is a model of open technological revolutions in the sense that the revolution occurs in an open society and the technology is accessible directly or indirectly by the general public as a good or service over time. I have been assuming a liberal democratic state in which market forces, even if regulated, play an important role. These are the conditions under which technological revolutions can flourish. The automobile revolution and electrification revolution are examples of reasonably open technological revolutions. In closed revolutions the access to the technology remains severely restricted by social, political, or economic forces. For example, a ruling elite or a military may maintain control by limiting access and use of particular technologies. The development of nuclear weapons would be an example of a closed technological revolution. Closed technological revolutions by definition will control the dispersal of the technology so that they are unlikely to proceed through all of the aspects of the permeation and power stages in this model.
To identify a technological revolution one must consider the technological paradigm, the technological devices that instantiate the paradigm, and the social impact of these devices.
The social impact of the devices instantiating the paradigm is most indicative of the stage of development. Without a significant social impact from the overall set of these devices, the revolution has not yet occurred.
The point is that sometimes a conceptual muddle is resolved first, through analogies or other reasoning, which in turn will influence the selection of a policy. And sometimes the policy is selected first based on analysis of consequences or other justificatory methods and the conceptual muddle is thereby resolved in reference to the new policy.
Because of the limitations of human cognitive systems, our ethical understanding of developing technology will never be complete
Note: I’m saving this quote because it’s a good example of how – in even such a throwaway line which to some it seem I’m overanalysing – linear assumptions about the kind of system we live in, and thus the kind of systems we can manage, influence how we model our practical understanding of the systems and our responses. So I would argue our ethical understanding will never be complete, not because of limitation of human cognition, but due to limitation of living in a complex system in which there is never complete understanding, no matter how much computational power you throw at it.
Ethicists need to be informed about the nature of the technology and to press for an empirical basis for what is and what is not a likely consequence of its development and use. Scientists and technologists need to confront considerations raised by ethicists and social scientists, considerations that may affect aspects of the next grant application or risky technological development.
I increasingly think that if we truly understood racism etc. as structural, we’d realise that monotonously repeating ‘no one is born hating another…’ means absolutely nothing.