Design Accountability

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= Who participates in, owns, and governs digital technology development?


Sasha Costanza-Chock:

"The most valuable ‘ingredient’ in Design Justice is the full inclusion of people with direct lived experience of the conditions the designers say they are trying to change. We could summarize the recent state of knowledge on the raced, classed, and gendered nature of employment in the technology sector, but we also need to shift from an argument for equity (we need diverse designers and software developers) to an argument for accountability (those most affected by the outcomes should lead and own digital design processes and products). The ‘participatory turn’ in technology design includes intersecting histories of User-Led Innovation, Participatory Design, and Feminist HCI (Von Hippel, 2005; Schuler and Namioka, 1993; Bardzell, 2010). Case studies might include the disability justice movement, whose activists popularized the phrase “Nothing About Us, Without Us,” (Charlton, 1998) and ACT UP!, who transformed HIV treatment through a potent mix of direct action, media savvy, and policy lobbying (Shepard, 2002). The key lessons include: involving members of the community that is most directly affected by the issue that you are focusing on is crucial, both because it’s ethical, and also because the tacit and experiential knowledge of community members is sure to produce ideas, approaches and innovations that a non-member of the community would be very unlikely to come up with. It’s possible to create formal community accountability mechanisms in design processes. This is especially urgent to do when working with historically marginalized communities, but applies to any and all design processes. The vast majority of community-based organizations don’t feel like they have the resources, skills, or time to participate in technology design. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing design, that they can’t do design, or that it doesn’t make sense to try and include them in a design process focused on an area that they work in; it means that a Design Justice framework requires doing the work to gather resources that will enable community participation and shared ownership." (

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