Please join the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) in Winter Quarter for a 10-week seminar on current topics in the HCDE field by industry experts. Each 40-minute talk will be followed by a Q&A session. Members of the UW community and the public are welcome. More information about the series is available online at hcde.uw.edu/521.
Title: Contestational Design: Sociotechnical innovation by social movements and advocacy organizations
Date: March 9, 2012
Speaker: Tad Hirsch
When: Fridays, 12:30-1:20 PM
Where: Loew Hall, Room 206, UW Seattle campus
Recent events like the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement have again placed relationships between technology and collective action at the forefront of contemporary discourse. Although timely, the recognition that activists are early and innovative users of communications technology is not new. Social movements and advocacy organizations have long been recognized as hotbeds of innovation. The social movement scholar Alberto Melucci famously called them “laboratories” where participants experiment with social organization, representation, and democratic processes.
Less well-understood are the means through with this innovation comes about. The popular press tends to assume a sort of technological determinism in which “heroic” technologies give rise to new forms of collective action (for example, “The Twitter Revolution”). Conversely, social movement scholarship often describes a process of “appropriation” in which activists creatively repurpose technologies developed by the commercial sector for explicitly social ends.
In this talk, I present a third perspective in which social movements and advocacy organizations participate in sociotechnical innovation involving the simultaneous design of tactics, technologies, and organizational form. Drawing on over a decade’s experience working with social movements and advocacy organizations, I will describe activists as engaging in contestational design, which I describe as a unique form of design practice that responds to the particular context in which activism occurs, and is informed by an explicit recognition of the values and ideological commitments that underpin most advocacy work.
Through several case studies, I will describe the principles and activities that shape contestational design practice, and will discuss relationships between contestational design and commercial design. Finally, I will suggest ways that a contestational design perspective challenges and informs mainstream design practice.
Instructor: Professor Judy Ramey
1 Credit (Credit/Non-credit)
Registration for UW students is available by entry code; contact the HCDE advisor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Speaker
Tad Hirsch is Assistant Professor in the Design Division at the University of Washington, where his research interests lie at the intersection of design, urban space, and collective action. Tad was previously Senior Research Scientist at Intel Labs, where he lead teams of designers, engineers, and social scientists that investigated technology and cultural practice. He was a member of the Rhode Island School of Design’s Digital + Media faculty from 2006-2008, and has taught courses in art, design, and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oregon. Tad was also founding member of the Institute for Applied Autonomy, an art/technology/activism collective that was active from 1998 – 2008. Tad’s creative work has been included in festivals and exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Europe and America, including the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, Ars Electronica, The New Museum, The Aldridge Museum of Contemporary Art, and MassMoca, and his research has been included in top-tier ACM conferences and in edited volumes published by MIT Press and Routledge. He has been the recipient of prestigious awards and commissions including an Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica 2000 and Rhizome Net Art Commissions in 2002 and 2006. He holds PhD and MSc degrees in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT, and an MDes in Interaction Design from CMU.