Design Sites

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= Where do we create new digital technologies?


Sasha Costanza-Chock:

"Design takes place everywhere, but particular sites are valorized as ideal-type locations for design practices. There is a growing literature about, and increased discussion of, real world practices within hackerspaces, hackathons, and design challenges. There has been a steady shift away from hacklabs as explicitly politicized spaces at the intersection of social movement networks and geek communities (Maxigas, 2012). Instead, startup culture and neoliberal discourses of individual mastery and entrepreneurial citizenship have largely colonized hackerspaces (Irani, 2015), even as city administrators have leveraged technofetishism to create ‘innovation labs’ at the city level. At the same time, there has been a more recent move towards intentional diversification of hacker and makerspaces, specifically along lines of gender, race, and sexual orientation. Examples include Liberating Ourselves Locally, Double Union, and more. However, in addition to the diversification of hacklab participants, design justice requires a broader cultural shift, back towards intentional linkage of these spaces and their practices to social movement networks. We must interrogate the ideals, discourse, and practice of hackathons and design challenges: what do people think or pretend hackathons do, and what really happens at hackathons? How do we imagine them as more intentionally liberatory and inclusive sites where design justice principles and practices can be implemented? How do institutions frame ‘problems’ for designers to ‘solve’ in ways that systematically invisibilize structural inequality, history, and community strategies of innovation, resilience, and organized resistance? Examples might include Hurricane Hackers, Occupy Data Hackathons, MigraHack, and TransHack, as well as the DiscoTech model (pioneered by the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition) and the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck hackathon. Ultimately, we also need a shift from deficit to asset based approaches to design scoping, and for the formal inclusion of community members in design processes during scoping and ‘challenge’ definition phases of a design cycle, not only during the ‘gathering ideas’ or ‘testing our solutions’ phases." ((

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