As part of the Indieweb Book Club for Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro I just acquired a paperback copy of this book. Just did a fast skim page through: I expect I’ll agree with some of Monteiro’s basic premises about design, I also noticed that the a...
I’m heading to a design-related event shortly in support of Mike Monteiro’s new book Ruined by Design. As I’ve been thinking about it today, it occurs to me that the FX television series The Americans reflects a bit of his thesis about designers taking control of their portion of their work.
In some sense Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, the two Russian spies living undercover as Americans, are very much like designers who have been blindly taking their orders from corporations on high and literally executing those orders (and people) without much regard to life going on around them. As the show progresses, they seem to take an arc much like one that Monteiro might suggest as they begin to question the morality and effects of those orders to not only better live their own lives, but to improve the lives of those around them and even across the world.
Thoughts on Mike Monteiro's 2019 polemical book, which insists in fiery terms that the design field start asserting its own, independent responsibility for the power it wields today.
Summary: Our first episode since January. David Shanske and Chris Aldrich get caught up on some recent IndieWebCamps, an article about IndieWeb in The New Yorker, changes within WordPress, and upcoming events.
Recorded: May 19, 2019
Swarm Account deletions and posting limits
New Checkin icon within the Post Kinds Plugin: example https://david.shanske.com/kind/checkin/
Weather now has microformats mark up in WordPress
Fatwigoo problems with icons
- Parse This
- Ekby Jarpen
- SteelCase Executive Tanker Desk
Readers & Yarns
Post Kinds Plugin
Post Kinds and new exclude functionality (🎧 00:48:15)
- titleless posts
- On this day
David’s list of 24 IndieWebCamps he’s attended
Looking back at past IndieWebCamp sessions and wiki pages for interesting ideas and new itches
Date and time stamps on webmentions
Call for tickets in WordPress
Subscribing to h-cards with WebSub
Is Mastodon IndieWeb?
Improving scoping, particularly for multi-user sites
Coming up within the community
IndieWeb Book Club
- More details: https://boffosocko.com/2019/05/04/indieweb-book-club-ruined-by-design/
IndieWeb Summit 2019
9th annual IndieWeb Summit (Portland) is coming up in June. RSVP now.
Feel free to send us your questions or topic suggestions for upcoming episodes. (Use the comments below or your own site using Webmention).
Perhaps a future episode on Micro.blog?
Hey, Jack—just want you to know that your post showed up on Indieweb.xyz… but it showed up as a reply to the link on BoffoSocko. Here’s where it ended up.
I had wondered myself where his post went. Good to know the subtleties of the UI of the system.
ABOUT THE TALK
For the past couple of decades, the tech companies of Silicon Valley (and beyond) have run unchecked, causing havoc, destroying civil discourse, democracy, ruining personal relationships, running marketplaces of harassment and abuse, all to line their pockets. The very worst part is that they did it with our labor.
This isn’t a talk, this is a union meeting.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Mike Monteiro is a designer and co-founder of Mule Design in San Francisco. He's been talking about design responsibility and ethics since before you were ready to listen. He’s written three books, including the just-released Ruined by Design.
A small number of books will be available for sale, which Mike will be able to sign after the talk. Otherwise, buy the book on Amazon. But really, just buy it and read it beforehand. It will help make the world better.
Follow him on Twitter, despite his feelings about Twitter: @monteiro
I, too, share this apprehension. From what I’ve read so far, it’s a tough hill to climb, but I think he’ll suggest that designers need to have larger associations like doctors, architects, lawyers, etc. to be able to create a better “standard of care.”
As I’m thinking about bookclubs and Hypothes.is, I sort of wish that Ruined by Design was either online or in .pdf format so that I could use a Hypothes.is group to highlight/annotate my copy with their tool for my bookclub. I’m curious if there are any non-academic bookclubs using it in the wild?
Obviously it’s great for reading native digital content, material in the public domain, or Creative Commons content, but how could one work on participatory annotations for more restricted copyright material? Is there a Hypothes.is plugin for the Kindle, Kindle apps, or other e-readers that may work with copyright material?
We caught up with award-winning speaker, author, and co-founder (with Erika Hall) of Mule Design, Mike Monteiro to discuss his background, thoughts on life and work as a designer, and why the business of design is just as important as the craft of it.
A collection of resources regarding ethics in technology and design
A designer is first and foremost a human being.
Before you are a designer, you are a human being. Like every other human being on the planet, you are part of the social contract. We share a planet. By choosing to be a designer you are choosing to impact the people who come in contact with your work, you can either help or hurt them with your actions. The effect of what you put into the fabric of society should always be a key consideration in your work.
It would appear that much of this article appears in Monteiro’s book Ruined by Design.
Read Chapters: The Ethics of Design, How Designers Destroyed the World, and Moving Fast and Breaking Things
I was very reticent about this book at first, but it is way more essential than I initially thought! I knew I was going to know almost all of the examples, and I’ve generally been right on that account so far, but he’s going beyond the problems with potential solutions. I was worried it was going to be something that I would appreciate and heartily recommend to others without getting much out of it myself, but it reads quickly and easily and there’s a lot here that I want to come back and ponder about further.
Despite the fact that I don’t feel like a professional web designer by trade, what he’s talking about here are standards of human care and interaction that anyone who makes anything should be thinking about on a daily basis. Whether you’re building or creating things for others or even making your own daily life, at heart, you’re designing something.
I also find myself thinking a lot about how people are building and designing technologies in the edtech space. May of the researchers, professors, and instructional designers I know are immersed in some of the ethics and morals behind using these technologies. Generally I hear them talking about what they “wish” they had as tools, but often they seem to be stuck with things they don’t really want and are then attempting to figure out ways around these technologies after-the-fact so that they can use them in an ethical manner. They really need to stand up, refuse to use what they’re given, and demand better design from the start. Even if they’re incapable of building their own tools, they’re slowly, but surely going to loose the war if they don’t move upstream to where the actual decisions are being made. Fortunately some of the work I see in the OER space is being done at the grass roots where people have more choice and say in the design, but I worry that if they’re not careful, those tools will be siloed off with bad design choices by for-profit companies as well.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
But if you want to wade into the murky waters of the tech industry; if you’re wanting to think more deeply about the power and ethical responsibility you have in this industry; if you’re perplexed but not in despair; if you’re ready to think about the direct impact our work has on the individuals and families exposed to the experiences and products you help create; if you’re ready to turn off the faucet; rip the plug out of the sink, and put your mop to use—this book is for you.
The world is on its way to ruin and it’s happening by design.
The goal of this book is to help you do the right thing in environments designed to make it easier to do the wrong thing.
We’re going to learn how being a designer is being a gatekeeper. We’re about to become humankind’s last line of defense against monsters.
I intend to show you that design is a political act. What we choose to design and more importantly, what we choose not to design, and even more importantly, who we exclude from the design process—these are all political acts. Knowing this and ignoring it is also a political act, albeit a cowardly one. Understanding the power in our labor and how we choose to use it defines the type of people we are.
Speaking of Victor Papanek, this book wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t read Design for the Real World as a young designer.
In the words of the great Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
For years, the libertarian con artists of Silicon Valley have been telling us they want to change the world. But when the people at the top tell you they want to change the world, it’s generally because they’ve figured out how to profit even more from those below them.
Our labor is what makes us special, and what gives us power. When we turn that labor into a force for making the world better for the largest number of people possible instead of using it to make a few people even richer than they already are? Then, and only then, we may be actually able to change the world. Then we get to go home and live ordinary lives.
Most professions worth their while, and capable of inflicting harm, have ethical codes of some sort. It’s a sign of maturity and responsibility, and there’s a price paid for not following it, which may include losing your license to practice.
The internet is a harassment and abuse factory in part because designers implemented things they shouldn’t.
About a year ago, I decided to write a code of ethics. It’s open-sourced. Take it. Make it better. Treat it like a living document:
A designer is first and foremost a human being.
When you do work that depends on a need for income disparity or class distinctions to succeed, you are failing at your job as a human being, and therefore as a designer.
A designer is responsible for the work they put into the world.
When we ignorantly produce work that harms others because we didn’t consider the full ramifications of that work, we are doubly guilty.
A designer values impact over form.
A designer owes the people who hire them not just their labor, but their counsel.
A designer uses their expertise in the service of others without being a servant. Saying no is a design skill. Asking why is a design skill. Rolling your eyes and staying quiet is not. Asking ourselves why we are making something is an infinitely better question than asking ourselves whether we can make it.
A designer welcomes criticism.
A designer strives to know their audience.
What about empathy? Empathy is a pretty word for exclusion.
A designer does not believe in edge cases.
A designer is part of a professional community.
A designer seeks to build their professional community, not divide it
A designer welcomes a diverse and competitive field.
A designer takes time for self-reflection.
No one wakes up one day designing to throw their ethics out the window
We are not hired hands, we are not pixelpushers, we are not order-takers. We are gatekeepers.
On November 6, 2016, Donald Trump received 2.9 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. The Electoral College—originally designed by elite white men to entice agrarian, slave-owning states to join the union—handed the election to the candidate with fewer votes, who also happened to be a white supremacist. It was designed to work that way.
The world isn’t broken. It’s working exactly as it was designed to work. And we’re the ones who designed it. Which means we fucked up.
There are two words every designer needs to feel comfortable saying: “no” and “why.” These words are the foundation of what we do. They’re the foundation of our ethical framework. If we cannot ask “why,” we lose the ability to judge whether the work we’re doing is ethical. If we cannot say “no,” we lose the ability to stand and fight. We lose the ability to help shape the thing we’re responsible for.
Sure, everyone remembers Frankenstein’s monster, but they call it by his maker’s name.
Excessive speed gets products through that gate before anyone notices what they are and how foul they smell.
We need to measure more than profit. We need to slow down and measure what our work is doing out there in the world.
People don’t see the things they’re rewarded for as problems to fix.
A good algorithm is the equivalent of breaking up with someone over a text message and then turning your phone off. It’s cowardly. Good leaders should aspire to have their fingerprints all over hard decisions.
When you hire me as a designer, I do not work for you. I may practice my craft at your service, but you haven’t earned the right to shape how I practice that craft.
Those of us who grew up designing things online need to realize the repercussions of the work we do. We’re no longer pushing pixels around a screen. We’re building complex systems that touch people’s lives, destroy their personal relationships, broadcast words of both support and hate, and undeniably mess with their mental health. When we do our jobs well, we improve people’s lives. When we don’t, people die.
A nice, and even hopeful introduction.