select research questions: What does a decolonized design curriculum look like? What would a design community accountability mechanism that invites ongoing commitment to transformative, anti-oppressive design look like? How does feminism operate in public spaces through the lens of performative social media interventions; how can it?
Bardzell and Bardzell urge designers to look outside of themselves and their own needs and realities, and consider “matters of aesthetics and enlightenment, social justice and oppression, self-actualization, and wisdom” (“Problems in the Appropriation of Critical Strategies” 2), while engaging with the “messiness of the lives of real people— from cradle to grave” (ibid. 19). Design (critical design specifically) provides opportunity for provocation rather than acting merely as an exercise in “rearranging surface features according to the latest fashion while obfuscating the norms and conventions inscribed in the designs and their use”, and design research activity can be the way to consider “how technology can improve the current state of human existence” (Bardzell, Bardzell, Forlizzi, Zimmerman, and Antanitis, 288).
Following the work of the Bardzells and others, human-computer interaction (HCI) has witnessed a call towards an integration of a feminist agenda into design research and practice (Bardzell, “Feminist HCI”). One reason may be, as noted by Kemp and Squires, that feminist theory is traditionally characterized by its interdisciplinarity: “its transgression of the usual subject divides (e.g. literary, historical, philosophical, psychological, anthropological, and sociological).” As part of my doctoral work (completed in 2015) on the design of decision support systems for use in oil manufacturing, I developed a Speculative Feminist Approach to Designwith six emergent principles. These principles ask designers and design researchers to consider and challenge their existing methods, beliefs, systems, and processes; focus on an actionable ideal future (through design); look for what has been made invisible or under represented; design at multiple levels of detail (micro, meso, and macro); privilege transparency and accountability; and expect and welcome being subjected to rigorous critique.I’m working on the integration, testing, and refinement of these principles (for example, our paper for the Strategic Design Research Journal titled A Speculative Feminist Approach to Project Management,2019). Through the qCollaborative, an Intersectional Feminist Design Research Lab nowhoused at University of Waterloo, Mount Royal University, and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, I have research projects that fall into one or more of the following areas: Feminist Placemaking; Materializing the Digital; Remediating Experience; and Design for Social Justice.
One of our current (and ongoing) projects—Design for Peace—funded by SSHRC, considers how design prototyping can help Colombians imagine a better future for themselves, their communities, and their country.