Diversity in Design

Let’s consider looking at the diversity behind technology design and creation. The prominence and global pervasiveness of technology impact a massive amount of people. We are connected more than ever via our easily accessible devices. Robust internet connectivity opens new space for many considerations (Tavani, 2016). The instantaneous connection of communities operating in the space promotes new societal opportunities and challenges. Cultural prominence and social norms begin to shift due to a change in our communication space dimension (Innis, 1972). The magnitude of this change generates new ethical consequences around how we connect as humans. Due to widespread internet connectivity’s global influence, let’s examine “who” is in these designers’ roles.

First, I want to explore the antiquated technological determinism concept. This theory attempts to separate or isolate technology from society (MacKenzie and Wajcman, 1985). This is simply not true because technology and social influences go hand-and-hand; both impact each other. Designers’ have biases that significantly influence their choices stemming from the way society operates. The decisions behind technology functions may place some individuals at an advantage and others at a disadvantage. Diverse design teams have the potential to think about how a device benefits everyone. Thus, society may benefit from viewing the masked designers behind their technology as having a social responsibility to reduce any harm to users’ well-being. Zagal, Bjork, and Lewis (2013) coin this phenomenon of design choices causing a user to unawarely work against their best interest as a “dark pattern”. Ethical design understands its impact on society and avoids intentional deceptive tactics that disintegrate users’ well-being (Singer, 2015; Harris, 2017).

In addition, designers adopting ethical choices enhance their impacts on diverse teams. Winner (2009) coins the term “social determinism”. Winner’s term recognizes society and technology existing in a mutual partnership. Hoven, Vermaas, and Poel (2015) argue that viewing designers as separate from society are an outdated view. Designers have an opportunity to integrate a wide range of social values into their decisions.

In addition, designers can adopt social determinism strategies. Hoven, Vermaas, and Poel (2015) discuss two solutions being Design for Values and participatory design. These solutions involve inserting multiple perspectives into the design process. This is significant because it is how an efficient and ethical partnership between technology and all of society’s well-being can form. However, the multiple perspective must be involvement early in the design process, so the trajectory of the impacts and possibly flexible usage can be assessed. I want to mention that these solutions have existed for decades, but why haven’t they been adopted on a larger scale? There is currently a lack of diverse mindsets and their silent voice means that technology is not being created and utilized for all of society’s well-being.

The adoption of technology is a reflection of a current society’s values and ethics. A lack of diversity within the technology field speaks loudly about how our society operates. I argue that this means the systematic architecture of how our society is built blocks diversity entering a power position. I mentioned earlier that new technology creates new cultural prominence and norms; however, sometimes older mindsets can transpire into new times and spaces. For example, sexism, homophobia, and racism. MacKenzie and Wajcman (1985) discuss how humans have options on the ways their technology is operated. Following a Value for Design and participatory direction can shift our technology design into a deontological ethics direction for posterity.

Furthermore, I want to discuss two solutions for how to include diverse mindsets into the trajectory of our society’s digital space. The first solution is education, specifically how programs and schools can encourage equal gender participation in STEM. There are programs that push for mentorships that work with detering cultural norms that discourage girls in technology. One program is Girls Who Code. The second solution is social pressure coming from society. Tavani (2016) argues that social pressure can be a solution for moving a society’s action into a direction aligning with the majority’s values and ethics. Pressure is an example of deontology because it is everyone’s duty to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. Essentially, giving an opportunity for silent voices to be included will not take away anyone’s rights. Continuing to silence diversity is more of a social utility that provides more opportunity for heteronormative and able-bodied males. Society who value diversity and push for action can place pressure on technology companies to include participatory design practices. However, I do wonder if regulation can also help by circumventing imbalanced demographic hiring practices, such as disability, racial, sexual orientation, and gender inclusion. Overall, diversifying is a complex issue that requires examining and correcting of many systemic processes.

I chose to discuss this topic because it is the underlying source fueling technology’s design trajectory. Simply, if the source (the who) is not reflective of our society than how could their designs represent our ethics and values. It is important to look deeper into why diversity in technology is beneficial and understand it. The digital world is a new and growing space that is being formed not by everyone is society. New technology adoption gradually creates consequences that redefine understanding of ethics in new context. Technology is neutral, but its implications become more complex through human activity (Winner, 2009). The most advantageous future is to diversify our designers who are within a power position. It is time that our society implements education programs and place social pressures on pushing for our initiatives. There must be action early to ensure that the digital environment code is creating a space for everyone. I argue that diversity is the first step that design needs to accomplish in order to progress with everyone’s well-being at least being considered. Then, a team of diverse perspectives can tackle new designs and issues behind dark patterns. For example, women and LGBTQ individuals involved in video game design (hyper-sexualized or absent characters). Also, AI can be utilized to increase police presence, but mores perspectives in a design with this purpose could help cease unfavorably targeting and terrorizing of some members in society. Essentially, design can be contextualized and responded to with a deeper ethics and values understanding that benefits everyone through diversification.


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