Critical (Fill in the blank)

As I was reading the paper by Kelliher and Agre, it made me think about what is critical design and what is critical engineering and how do these apply to Agre’s story. For those that were able to go to the talk on Tuesday, got great examples of Oliver and Vasiliev trying to open up the black box and show what is inside. One thing that stood out to me in the talk and the manifesto was this idea of going beyond the implementation and to determine how to influence and the effects. From the talk, I would say that critical engineering is not meant to just have engineers reflect on their technology, but to have an impact on the public. Reading the Kelliher paper, critical design is meant to have this same wide-ranged impact.

As Rachel mentions in her post though, how aware are people outside of these fields of this work? As we have discussed throughout the class, often speculative design can be a way for designers to reflect back on their practices. Is it something that people outside of the field need to be aware of or is it something where if it can have an impact on the field itself then it is successful? This reminded me of a piece that I have read by Schon about reflection-in-action. Perhaps what is important is for all fields to be critical and to have this internal reflection. It is important for them to think about their methods as well as their techniques and goals as a field. Through this reflection back on what they have done and are doing tacitly, they can change their methods for a more desirable future. This I felt tied into the Agre chapter. Here we are applying this reflection and critical thinking into a different field of AI. I guess my question from these readings is should critical design and critical engineering have the goal and purpose of having this large impact on society, or is it the responsibility of each field to have their own critical process?

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One thought on “Critical (Fill in the blank)

  1. Jenny, I think this is the second time I’ve replied to one of your posts. I really appreciate the clarity of your thoughts.

    Building upon several other comments…

    I do think that it’s important that all fields have space for critical thought and reflection. I also feel that Agre makes a pretty convincing (and engaging) case for this in his chapter. Although the audience for such critical and reflective work may be other practitioners in the field, I do wonder if the comparison of critical thinking across fields paints an interesting picture–we’ve read multiple accounts of critical literary theory applied to design. Is critical design and critical engineering and critical theory in literature all that different? Should it be? Would it be more useful to the practitioners if it were?

    I’m not sure where to place Oliver and Vasiliev’s projects. They speak of opening up the black box for the public. However, if I was the individual at the coffee shop who’s newsfeed got hacked or the tourist left wondering the streets of Berlin because my phone is mis-guiding me, how would this change my future behavior? Does it simply teach me to mistrust google maps? Do I check the wall sockets for funny looking devices before going online in a public place? That can’t be the goal.

    How do I leave that event feeling empowered to open up the black box? Is it that increasing my feeling of powerlessness, being at the mercy of a faulty black box, simply makes me more aware of the existence of the black box and my reliance on it?

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