Purpose: Synthesize what you learned in this class and analyze design through the lens of power dynamics in society.
“In painting, you have unlimited power. You have the ability to move mountains. You can bend rivers. But when I get home, the only thing I have power over is the garbage.” – Bob Ross
Dr. Ruha Benjamin says power is relational. Design is a creative process but outside the classroom, design is not free from the influence of power structures. We prioritize based on funds, sponsors’ & higher up collaborators’ goals, technical limitations, business or organizational goals etc. Even in participatory work, what ultimately gets implemented in the real world (if it does) is often highly influenced by these power structures.
Throughout this class, you have read examples of the influence of power structures over the design, development, and use of technology. You also read examples of how technology is used to distribute or share power and support movements of justice. Here, focus on the process of construction of infrastructures and design. Answer the following prompts in your paper:
Explain these terms in your own words:
Politics of technology – Is technology neutral? How are infrastructures constructed? How do societal power structures influence decisions towards “progress”? Justify your answer and give examples based on class materials.
In your own words, explain the critique of design thinking by Dr. Ruha Benjamin.
Describe an example from class materials: how is technology being used for empowering people?
What is your positionality in this societal power structure (e.g., power (or lack of power) as a student, consumer or user, career paths, identities)? How would this understanding change how you approach sociotechnical issues in your own career paths (if it would)?
How do you think your understanding from this class can inform the design and/or development of sociotechnical artifacts towards empowerment, equity, or more just systems than what currently exist (industry or research)? Write at least two questions you would ask to address sociotechnical problems.
Note: This is not meant to find a “fix” or solution but to help think about the problem and the process in depth (e.g., What design or research questions would you ask? How would you frame the problem space? Whom would you share your power with & how?)
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