This past summer of 2021, I *virtually/digitally* attended the Digital Pedagogy Lab (DPL) with the hope of learning more about equitable design implementation that I could bring back to my classroom teaching and own personal learning.
For context, I am a student, a teacher, and a library affiliate (what I call myself for being a part-part time Digital Project Coordinator for my institution’s library and the Open Knowledge Center). And each of these roles constantly co-exist with each other — informing how I learn, how I work, and how I teach in each role.
With DPL, I wanted to gain criticality to evaluate the choices I make (or refrain from making) when I design projects and curricula — and when I engage in academic discourse more broadly.
And importantly — as Sasha Costanza-Chock reminds us: design should not be considered exclusively by who is recognized as “designers.”
Teachers and educators design.
Poets, engineers, farmers, photographers, neighbors, families, friends all design.
We all design. And we can draw upon design to strive for more equitable practices of learning, sharing, and producing knowledge
Personally, I am interested in community-centered design, education, and something that I am calling critical care.
As I participated in DPL, I realized how much these frameworks overlap with those of Inclusive Design and Design Justice.
This was evident to me, firstly, through the focus on anti-exclusionary design which I felt corresponded to my critical care. Then I saw a pointed emphasis on community-centered design through Inclusive Design and Design Justice. And lastly, I have felt compelled to share what I have learned with others, aligning with my own work in and with education.
If you are not familiar with this phrase, “critical care,” that is okay — because neither am I. But I needed something to describe how I simultaneously strive to lead with care and criticality. If you have a term for this, please let me know. Till then —
At the start of DPL, I was struck by the realization that my own default is to consider access, not exclusion. This switch results in questions like Who has/doesn’t have access? shifting to Who is excluded from this? Why?
This is not to say that we must not consider access, but rather to illustrate that we must consider exclusion — and prioritize anti-exclusion.
But how do we identify exclusion? What is it?
In “Mismatch,” Kat Holmes identifies that there are five elements contributing to the cycle of exclusion:*
What we make
Why we make
Who makes it
How it is made
Who uses it
*this cycle is not sequential, but rather iterative
In exploring these elements, we can (and should) strive to consider who is excluded, under what conditions this exclusion occurs, and how our actions reinforce preexisting structures of exclusion.
Importantly, anti-exclusionary work is messy and difficult work. It is disruptive to the norm — but knowing that which is normative is harmful, hurtful, and painful to so many, it is necessary work. And it is work that can be accomplished through community-centered design.
Inclusive Design recognizes that the “one size fits all” model is ineffective — and we should adopt the mindset of “one size fits one.”
In doing so, Inclusive Design emphasizes the power and significance of working with others towards a shared goal through co-design and sustained collaboration.
Design Justice considers how just designs are more needed than good or efficient designs.
In utilizing the above core questions, I investigated how my own campus enacts exclusion — namely through the physical campus itself.
Importantly, DPL emphasized that Design Justice relies on several principles to guide just design that strives to challenge and disrupt exploitative systems of injustice:
define a set of principles by which you will work
distance yourself from those that work against those principles
consider your negative impact
get involved & build on preexisting/in-process work
humble yourself: design with, not for
learn about privilege & anti-oppression → and confront it
know when not to design
shape alternative futures
begin by listening
By following these principles, Design Justice encourages us to consider: How can design better support communities facing injustice? and How can we foster design processes, and not just products, that reflect these values?
In doing so, Design Justice prioritizes the community over the so-called expert or professional (as these individuals are the experts). Therefore, enacting Design Justice is centering and amplifying the voices of those who are most marginalized to provide sustained opportunities for healing and empowerment.
Below I have outlined a brief list of strategies specific to Inclusive Design and Design Justice. Additionally, I have included Working Openly — as this was a method referred to throughout the entirety of DPL.
The work of Inclusive Design and Design Justice can and should be implemented across the board, but I saw significant opportunities for implementation for libraries and classrooms (especially since these are the spaces that I most frequent in my own work/life).
As such, the graphic below explores strategies and opportunities specific to libraries and classrooms (grade school and higher edu).
Ultimately, the suggestions for classrooms and libraries are very similar — and they both boil down to prioritizing equity from the ground up. More specifically, these suggestions all correspond to communicating with those impacted by our designs/work, connecting and collaborating with those same individuals — and ultimately building and supporting community.
Moving forward: take these suggestions, implement them, share them, build off of them and make them more applicable for your own work. Additionally, develop your own plans for growth. Critically evaluate how your own actions, daily choices, and outputs reinforce injustice.
A variation of this essay was published by Kelsey Dufresne as “Digital Pedagogy Lab: 2021” with Medium.