design

Keynote Address: Racist by Design—Why We Need a New Economic System for the 21st Century

CAROLYN ROUSE Princeton University Carolyn Rouse is a professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Program in African Studies at Princeton University. Her work explores the use of evidence to make particular claims about race and social inequality. She is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam, Uncertain Suffering: Racial Healthcare Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment. Her manuscript Development Hubris: Adventures Trying to Save the World examines discourses of charity and development and is tied to her own project building a high school in a fishing village in Ghana. In the summer of 2016 she began studying declining white life expectancies in rural California as a follow-up to her research on racial health disparities. Carolyn is also a filmmaker: she has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Chicks in White Satin (1994), Purification to Prozac: Treating Mental...

Empathy as Faux Ethics

adbusters image with text "me, myself, I"
by THOMAS WENDT, Surrounding Signifiers “The term ‘empathy’ has provided a guiding thread for a whole range of fundamentally mistaken theories concerning man’s [sic] relationship to other human beings and to other beings in general.” —Martin Heidegger Popular design discourse is full of articles, books, and conference presentations on the role of empathy in design. In both commercial and non-commercial settings, most designers argue the same thing: designers should attempt to build empathy for “users” so they can better design for them. But empathy as it’s generally practiced ultimately subverts its own goals. It tends to reinforce “otherness”, promote anthropocentrism, and ignore ecological considerations. Everyday Empathy I recently moved from Manhattan to Queens. My old neighborhood, NoLita (north of Little Italy…thanks, real estate agents), had fully gentrified, with storefronts quickly transforming into cold pressed juice bars ($10/cup) and men’s shaving supply stores ($25 “beard oil”). My...

Design as a Cultural System

by KEITH M. MURPHY, University of California Irvine I don’t think I’m supposed to admit this, at least not publicly, but it’s true: talking about design drives me to drink. Not literally of course (I’m a teetotaler!), but metaphorically. Why? Because design itself isn’t really a single term, but a collection of homonyms, each of which bears some semantic resemblance to the others, but all of which cover rather different terrain. When we talk about design, we tend to assume we’re all really talking about The Same Thing, even if we’re not, and this contributes to a fair amount of cross-talk when we collectively think hard about design and its possibilities. I care about this because I wandered to design from other places, and when I landed there, the situation was confusing to me. Design was about things to some people, and practices to others. Or forms and aesthetics. Or systems engineering. Or capitalism. Or collaboration and creativity. Or “what it means to be human.” And so on. All of these perspectives make...

EPIC Screening in Melbourne

Friday, April 29, 2016, 5:30–8:30 PM Loop Project Space & Bar, 23 Meyers Place, Melbourne, Australia RSVP Here! We’re excited to partner with Melbourne Professional Design Anthropology to offer a screening and discussion of selected videos from our annual conference—the premier international gathering on ethnography and design in business. Two hours of highlights will include keynote,…

Putting Death in Its Place: Using Ethnography to Redesign Death

by CORI MOORE, Point-Blank International & INGA TREITLER, Anthropology Imagination Ever heard about the “the turning of the bones” in Madagascar? Once every five years or so, families get together for a rambunctious gathering at their ancestral crypt as they exhume the bodies. It’s a very lively affair – family members share recent news with the deceased, ask for advice and blessings, and even take them for a little dance… Now, for many people, the thought of waltzing with the late Great Aunt Ingrid and asking her opinion of your new fiancé is downright inconceivable. But that’s not where our inhibitions begin. Let’s face it: most of us won’t even talk about “it” until we absolutely have to. It’s not just that death is not often thought of as appropriate dinnertime conversation. It’s more than that. Talking about death is stubborn and culturally rule bound – much to our detriment, it turns out. We’re in an age where there’s an abundance of human-centric services; a wealth of ‘smart’ things...

Beyond the Toolbox: What Ethnographic Thinking Can Offer in a Shifting Marketplace

by JAY HASBROUCK, Hasbrouck Research Group Lufthansa flight 490, Seattle to Frankfurt Dinner just served, everyone was settling in, each in various stages of preparing their coping mechanisms for the painfully long flight. Laptops, eye masks, charge cords, earphones, earplugs, slippers, hand cream…they were very busy. The woman next to me popped a sleeping pill and was situating her blankets. I began my own ritual of scanning the entertainment channels to plan my movie lineup. As I was flipping through documentaries, I unexpectedly ran across an educational featurette titled “Design Thinking in 30 Minutes.” Yes, 30 minutes! The more I thought about this featurette as an offering aimed at a mass audience, the more it seemed like an indicator of sorts to me. At face value, it’s a sign that interest in design thinking has become so widespread that a 30-minute short on the subject warranted inclusion in a carefully curated inflight entertainment lineup. But did it also suggest that the practice to which many have dedicated...

Everything is Made up and the Points Don’t Matter

by JON KOLKO, Vice President of Design, Blackboard As children, we view the world as fixed. In the US, kids learn that red means stop, Columbus had three ships, and the police are there to protect us. We learn culture as immobile and that we have a place in that culture, and this place is reiterated continually by our socioeconomic situation and the people we see around us. As we get older, some of us experience this perspective shifting. We realize our own volition to change our circumstances and circumstances of those around us, and we begin to understand that through the long, arduous slog of work and research, we can positively impact some of the fundamental truths of our world. But many never experience that shift. They grow older and still see rules as boundaries, history as a simple single-threaded narrative, and the hopelessness of many of the world's social ills as unavoidable and immobile. There's an unpleasant inevitability in this perspective, and over time, it breeds a sense of despair. I consistently see signals...