Breaking Boxes

Our Goal

Gender identity is the first set of boxes children create for their world. They place other boys and girls into these boxes based on what they look like, sound like, and act like. Today’s society is filled with structured roles and expectations for males and females, and children are targeted with these stereotypes from the moment they have their first ultrasound. But the world isn’t black and white, and gender identity isn’t a binary concept; rather, it is a spectrum that allows for diversity in all areas of life at all ages. Our goal is to help children understand that everyone has aspects of themselves that defies “gender boxes”, and to suggest to them that that is okay.

Concept Animation

Content Delivery

Website: Gender is complicated…

Research Materials

Sources and notes listed on Google Drive

Anonymous and the Craftiness of Craft and the Trickiness of Trickery

Anonymous and the Craftiness of Craft and the Trickiness of Trickery
Gabriella Coleman
Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy, Department of Art History & Communication Studies, McGill University

Since 2010, digital direct action, including leaks, hacking and mass protest, has become a regular feature of political life on the Internet. This lecture considers the source, strengths and weakness of this activity through an in-depth analysis of Anonymous, the protest ensemble that has been adept at magnifying issues, boosting existing — usually oppositional — movements and converting amorphous discontent into a tangible form. It has been remarkably effective, despite lacking the human and financial resources to engage in long-term strategic thinking or planning. Anonymous has neither the steady income nor the fiscal sponsorship to support a dedicated team tasked with recruiting individuals, coordinating activities and developing sophisticated software. Wherein, therefore, lies the power of Anonymous?
Monday, March 24; 4:30 PM
Porter Hall 100

Perceived Practicality

On reading Morozov’s article on solutionism, some thoughts I have recently had were reflected. When I look at some of the projects I do at CMU, I often feel that they do not actually solve any real problems and the solutions they give to the problems even when they are not necessarily real, are superficial solutions which lack depth.

Everything is a timeline when it comes to projects, we have one week to come up with a solution to a problem we need to find in a day of what is called field work in which we are expected to empathize and identify problems people are having. The projects tend to be short, with deliverables and responsive to “needs.” This is similar to how I think projects in industry work, you need to make money fast so you go out, find a problem and come up with some brilliant app idea to solve it and then you launch it and things get better in the World.

This is practical, you don’t spend years thinking and getting at the real underlying problems that would have an important impact in our lives. But practical often feels incomplete and superficial. Depth of thought and identifying what is worth solving and how requires time and this is not practical because it does not deliver quickly and does not satisfy the immediate need to fix something that is perceived to be broken with some scotch tape.

What is the alternative to perceived practicality and can we make it practical not because practical is better but because practical seems to be necessary?

Thoughts on Malpass’s article perhaps influenced by Mozorov’s article

After reading the Malpass piece. I couldn’t help but agree with Dan. So what?, what have I learned from the piece? I would have to say throughout the piece, I questioned the intellectual credibility of the piece as I couldn’t help but ask the author why he chose the taxonomies that he did, what evidence supported his theories (two “in-depth” interviews with professionals does not qualify you to make a taxonomy 🙂 ), why pick satire, narrative, and rationality instead of other frameworks for critiquing critical design? The process behind the choice of framework is just as important as the framework used for critiquing critical design, that is what I missed from this piece

Taxonomy / Spectrum

Right after closing the pdf to write about how I think it should be a spectrum, I saw Samantha and Dan voicing it out. So at least I don’t feel alone now. I strongly agree with Samantha, that it should be more like a spectrum, as I think there’s a lot that can fit into both categories. This is kind of like the musician/new song release problem. Musicians need to define their genre, in order to be able to reach out to the right audience. But this requires them to assume who their audience is. Naturally after 2 – 3 albums, they start asking other people to name the genre, because it’s constantly evolving. Most of the time the definitions made by other people, but not the composers themselves are more accurate, because it’s hard to have a good perspective as the composer. I think it’s the same with Critical and Speculative design. Just because a technology exists only in a lab context doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “unfamiliar”. A good example would be 3D printers. “We” as people who are in CMU eco-system, all have an idea about how they work, they’re still new, and considering how fast the technology is evolving, it’s still in lab stage, but “we” are familiar to how it may change our lives. Not because someone refers to scientific documents to prove this, but because we’ve experienced this with 2D printers. Of course it’s debatable if 3D printers are the best example, but wouldn’t this depend on the group of people we’re selecting as a reference? “We” may, know about the technology even in the lab stage, but “some other people” may not. And isn’t this the same approach as “what works in Palo Alto is assumed to work in Penang” ? Just by categorizing things as “Familiar” and “Unfamiliar”, I think the categorization system fails. Familiar to whom? How do we know if the audience likes rock or jazz? 

Horatian and Juvenalian approaches – categories or spectrum?

I really enjoyed this break-down of the different types of satire. I hear Dan’s point that being able to give names to things doesn’t intrinsically add value to them, and while I don’t necessarily agree that there isn’t value to naming things, I do agree that this particular type of categorization seems fairly arbitrary (especially with a third category in the taxonomy which is for the intersection of them.) I think I’d be happier if the paper discussed them as a spectrum, which would let people talk about the level to which different aspects of satire occurred for each object, rather than trying to find a best fit categorization.

About the Malpass article

… well, neat! But what’s the point? Now we can say “this is Critical Design” or “this is Associative Design” and talk about whether it uses Horatian or Juvenalian satire… what does that do for us? Especially in the conclusion, it sounds like he’s saying “well, Design has to have an intellectual basis, especially the parts that aren’t so immediately practical, so here’s another bit of Design Theory.” Theory for theory’s sake.

Maybe I am being overly cranky here. What did I miss?

Considering “Who Owns History?” by Eric Foner

Reading the text suggested by guest lecturer Joshua Reiman brought to mind a couple of recent events and a special test that might be useful to consider:

Censoring Art and History“, by Scott Jaschik, March 3, 2014, Inside Higher Ed.

Spike Lee on gentrification

100 questions and answers for the US naturalization test:”Learn about the United States” official booklet


Dang, I wish I hadn’t presented my exemplar yet, because I just came across Tiltor (“stop protests from becoming riots”). Awesome design fiction. (or insane/doomed/terrifying real thing? hard to tell.)

edit: apparently a real thing. I emailed them “is this real?” and a founder replied: “Yes, we are real. I know there has been some question about this being some kind of satire, but I assure you we are a real business in the early stages of development.”

which leads to the next question… can this still be “design fiction”? I feel like it still fits in with what we’re all doing. but maybe it’s not design fiction per se, maybe it’s just a real thing that might inspire design fictions.