Why putting on the brakes is not enough

Pittsburgh Public.jpeg

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, knows his platform allows for bad craziness to spread like cancer, but fuck it! He’s still getting rich. Who cares if his platform amplified the worst voices in this country, and did so at the shared expense of everyone else? Right? Anyone who still works for Twitter should seriously reconsider what they are doing with their lives. Imagine getting paid to provide Nazis a global megaphone. How do you sleep at night, @Jack?

Thoughts on Ruined by Design, by Mike Monteiro:


I’ve finished reading Mike Monteiro’s book, Ruined By Design, and his message is clear: “as designers, we need to think of ourselves as gatekeepers.” This means we must refuse to put harmful designs (in any form) into the world. He uses the analogy of the Hippocratic Oath, and a doctor’s pledge to “first, do no harm,” and argues for designers to adopt a code of ethics.

I can hardly disagree with the notion that designers, like many other professions, ought to operate under a set of values. But is this enough? No. It is not enough to *not* do unethical design. It’s a good start, but it is not enough. For every harmful act, for every data breach, for every easily preventable hack, for every racist and hateful Tweet, for every man-made environmental catastrophe, and for every preventable tragedy brought upon us in the name of “innovative technology” and “disruption,” there is another mile we all travel on this dark highway. Refusing to do something harmful is a neutral act, and ought to be perceived as part of a neutral position. If you are someone who remains “neutral” on climate change, staggering wealth inequality, or the very real threats of fascism and white nationalism, then you’re not really part of the solution - you’re just a speed bump.

We need to reverse this, and Mike Monteiro is passionately calling for us to start by putting on the brakes. It’s not enough, but it is an essential first step. What we desperately need is positive change. We are going down this road at the speed of internal, infernal combustion. We are going faster than hot chrome and sweaty sex. Running in the red.

Almost everyone (aside from a handful of oligarchs and their Fox News sycophants) agrees that we should (at the very least) slow down. And if you suggest we stop, do you know how you will be labeled? You will be called a “far-left radical.” As if wanting every hard working family in this country to live with some basic level of dignity is a communist plot! As if wanting Twitter and the rest of Silicon Valley to actually be held responsible for what they put out into the world is “too liberal” or “too PC.” Well, call me liberal, but I cannot see the value in letting racist assholes have a platform to make terroristic threats against hospitals. Seriously: Fuck you, Jack Dorsey.

Why are these matters controversial at all? Maybe it is because the only thing more grotesque than this horrify status quo is: ourselves. We have been ignoring hard truths for such a long time that we often fail to see how far off we have wandered. It’s after midnight. The road is dark. The engine is running in the red. Why? From wealth inequality, to endless wars, to climate change, we live in a world where crisis is the status quo. Why?

(?)

What the author correctly identified is that this is because it is designed that way. We can’t fix this by simply refusing to go further down this road; we need to actively work against the designs that lead to ruin. We need to take the wheel. And if we crash, we need to pile up the debris and preserve only that which functions as a warning sign: to tell future generations not to go down that same path ever again. I’ll let Mike have the last word on this.

If we want positive search results, we should do positive things. If we want to reassure the users of our products that they can trust us, we should do positive things. There’s a reason I wrote these last three chapters in this order. Community breeds standards; standards breed accountability; accountability breeds trust; licensure validates that trust. It’s a journey. It may be a long journey, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking.

Do positive things.

Monteiro, Mike. Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It (p. 206). Mule Books.

Designese

Today’s quote: Лучших сосок не было и нет, готов сосать до старых лет. Продаются везде. Резинотрест.

I am still not certain what observations are valuable to record during this graduate program. What I am certain of, is that I will be learning a lot of new languages: the language of typography, CSS, HTML, Python, graphics, and the countless jargon of the Design community. I think I’ll call this strange new collection of languages “Designese.” It is the combined means by which designers communicate their ideas, and inject them into the world.

The morning class (Design Principles and Practices) was interesting. We began with an exercise where we abstracted our backgrounds by improvising with given materials and the classroom space itself.

I chose to represent myself with attributes of Portland’s bicycle culture, my love of Laserdisc movies, my career in electronics, and my fine arts education.

I chose to represent myself with attributes of Portland’s bicycle culture, my love of Laserdisc movies, my career in electronics, and my fine arts education.

The center represents CMU, and each student worked to recreate elements of their journey to this graduate program. Whiteboards contain written facts about the cohort and their connections to the field of design (right), and our pictographic expression of the core principles of design (left).

The center represents CMU, and each student worked to recreate elements of their journey to this graduate program. Whiteboards contain written facts about the cohort and their connections to the field of design (right), and our pictographic expression of the core principles of design (left).

It was a bit of a mess in the beginning, but eventually this random pile of madness transformed into a visual representation and collaborative sculpture of readymade objects. Bruce Hanington took two pages of observation notes during this exercise. This was quite an icebreaker, and I generally feel very good about collaborating in the future with this group.

Over lunch I discussed a few of my on-boarding concerns with Ema. I value Ema’s insights and experience as a grad student. It was Ema and Michelle who took me on a brief tour back in the spring (when I was waiting for the admissions decision). I wanted to know if I ought to be concerned by the lack of clear course outline. The syllabus makes the expectations clear, but are still relatively vague and lacking the kinds of specifics I am accustomed to. Generally speaking, I am used to more structure (my time in the military, working at Intel, and undergraduate studies were loaded with constraints and granular, rigid scheduling). This is new for me, but I also expect that this will lead to greater autonomy in a future career - we’re receiving lots of support, but are also expected to work independently, with very open-ended criteria and high standards for deliverables. It is a continual source of comfort to know that these are the people I will face these challenges with.

In the afternoon I had my first session with Andrew Twigg. He will be teaching two of our courses this semester. For introductions, we were spared having to repeat our backgrounds. Instead, Andrew only asked for our names, where we’re coming from, and our favorite food. I chose rice, because “Rice is great if you're really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something” (R.I.P. Mitch Hedberg). After reviewing the syllabus, we had our first lecture on the topic of typography. This included two slide presentations with a brief history on the development of written communication, from cave paintings to the fonts commissioned by billion dollar internationals in the 21st century. This included an almost anatomical dive into the creation of a modern font, what they are made of, and the names of their parts. We also explored the contextual relationship between size, shape, and arrangement of text. There was a lot terminology that is still foreign to me, but I believe I’ll be able to absorb these new concepts as we begin to play with (and act upon) these various components.

One of the slides was a soviet era advertisement for galoshes (at least, that’s what I could glean from a thread on mail.ru). The rough translation: “There were not, and are not better nipples, ready to suck through the old years. Sold everywhere: Reznotrest.” The word “сосать” (i.e.,“suck”) is a verb with similarly vulgar dual meaning to its English counterpart. I’m not sure if this was true when the image was originally constructed. It is probably not important or worthwhile to read into it that too much.

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My first deliverable is due this Thursday: 32 layout thumbnails and eight prints (on tabloid, 17 x 11 inch sheets) with font constraints on preselected text. How we arrange it will be up to us to decide, but should demonstrate Design Thinking and execution of enhanced visual communication matching to the context.

XOXOFest 2018!

I had suuuuch a blast at my first XOXOFest! Swag was great - tokens for drinks at an extraterrestrial speakeasy, interactive installations, projects for future selves, morning fun runs, VR and AR demos at Mozilla, Adobe Creative Jam, FANTASTIC SPEAKERS (Cameron Esposito, Monica Dinculescu, Natalie Wynn, John Hodgman, Jean Grae, and more!), Indie Games Arcade and tabletop games blew my mind!

Don’t hate me for my swag, hate me for my awesome Ziggy Stardust shirt!

Don’t hate me for my swag, hate me for my awesome Ziggy Stardust shirt!

Taking seats before the opening

Taking seats before the opening

Those user agreements (we don’t read), and how they stack up

Those user agreements (we don’t read), and how they stack up

One of the proudest moments… Nude Burt Reynolds projected onto a huge screen

One of the proudest moments… Nude Burt Reynolds projected onto a huge screen

Sometimes it just has to be said

Sometimes it just has to be said

Adam Conover talks about why we should Preach to the Choir

Adam Conover talks about why we should Preach to the Choir

Augmented

Augmented

The best win state I have ever seen in a game - a tasty cocktail

The best win state I have ever seen in a game - a tasty cocktail