Design Values: Hard-Coding Liberation?

Costanza-Chock, Sasha. 2020. "Design Values: Hard-Coding Liberation?" In Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (1st ed.).

37 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2022

See all articles by Sasha Costanza-Chock

Sasha Costanza-Chock

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Algorithmic Justice League

Date Written: March 9, 2021

Abstract

Chapter 1 addresses the question, “What values do we encode and reproduce in the objects and systems that we design?” It argues that, currently, the values of white supremacist heteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, and settler colonialism are too often reproduced in the affordances and disaffordances of the objects, processes, and systems that we design. The chapter begins with a story about using Facebook to organize a trans*, queer, and immigrant solidarity protest and uses that experience to open a critical conversation with the literature on affordances, disaffordances, discriminatory design, and cognitive load. Although design affordances are often assumed to be universal, the chapter argues that they are actually unequally distributed based on the matrix of domination. The next section briefly discusses approaches such as value-sensitive design, universal design, and inclusive design. Over time, these have produced much-needed shifts in design theory and practice, and design justice builds upon them but also differs in important ways. The chapter also draws on feminist and antiracist strands within science and technology studies to unpack the ways that the matrix of domination is constantly hard-coded into designed objects and systems. This typically takes place not because designers are intentionally “malicious” but through unintentional mechanisms, including assumptions about “unmarked” end users, the use of systematically biased data sets to train algorithms using machine-learning techniques, and limited feedback loops. Addressing these issues requires that we retool for design justice, and the chapter analyzes various design concepts and tools, such as differential cognitive load, intersectional instrumentation, benchmarking, and A/B testing, through a design justice lens. It ends with a question about what it might mean to hard-code liberation.

Keywords: design, design justice, design values, value-sensitive design, universal design, matrix of domination, intersectional feminism

JEL Classification: O30

Suggested Citation

Costanza-Chock, Sasha, Design Values: Hard-Coding Liberation? (March 9, 2021). Costanza-Chock, Sasha. 2020. "Design Values: Hard-Coding Liberation?" In Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (1st ed.). , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3801228

Sasha Costanza-Chock (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Algorithmic Justice League ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://ajl.org

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