This essay offers an analysis of the “pain point,” a commonplace figure of speech in UX design and contemporary business contexts more broadly. By situating this everday trope within a wider discourse of pain, and its politiciztion in the United States, I seek to problematize the modes of relationality and forms of care entailed in the practice of design research. Ultimately, I will argue, while the “pain point” can be an effective tool for communicating with stakeholders and fomenting alignment about research objectives, it also implicates the more troubling ethical dimensions of applied practice. Through a narrative account of an innovation focused ethnographic research project conducted within the design unit of a major tech company, I argue that questions of solidarity, and its contemporary aporias, can be obscured by the humanitarian rhetoric of contemporary design praxis; a rhetoric of which the “pain point” is a prime example....
Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley; Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley
In this paper we explore the idea of a system of care through a city transit system. We argue that a systematic orientation to care is central to what makes a transit system work for people. Further, we suggest that this care orientation is recognized as such, even though it is not apparent in typical modes of systems management. Care is what knowing in this system is for. We examine how participants in the system navigate different epistemic bases of their work, focusing on how care work and information work intertwine. How is this work practiced and known? And how could we, as design researchers, use these practices to design systems of care? In service of these goals, we expand the notion of care work toward care of non-human actors as well as that of people. We focus particularly on the roles of automation and the risks automation presents for care. In a moment of increased...