Some notes Introduction: #TravelingWhileTrans, Design Justice, and Escape from the Matrix of Domination.
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.” 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.” 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,” 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.” 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.