I just started reading Sasha Costanza-Chock’s Design Justice. I picked it up to inform my work on the Documenting the Now project, and also to develop some new thinking around how design and values mix in infrastructure studies.

In the first chapter I was delighted to learn about the Design Justice Network, which is an international group of people interested in rethinking design processes that center people that are usually marginalized by design. This group grew out of the Allied Media Conference, which I had heard about before, most recently during the Documenting the Now’s trip to Detroit late last year. Design Justice draws on tons of threads from this community, and so far appears to be a great introduction to work that has gone on in this space.

The Design Justice Network has published a set of principles that really speak more generally to the problems of design that we on the Documenting the Now project have encountered in the more narrow area of web archiving. We developed our own set of principles for archiving web content known as the Ferguson Principles, but I think it’s useful to think of them also as a set of design principles for an archive. I think archives tend to think of their descriptions and organization as standardized in particular ways – and we don’t always admit to them being designed, and our decisions to use (or not use) particular standards as design decisions. Rather than foreclosing on the design of archives by simply adopting a digital repository system, or descriptive standard, seems like a way of not making a decision, but it always is right?

Eventhough the Design Justice Network Principles are already on the web I wanted to jot them down here to record my contact with them, and also to let them seep in a bit as I transcribe them:

  1. We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems.
  2. We center the voices of those who are directly impacted by the outcomes of the design process.
  3. We prioritize design’s impact on the community over the intentions of the designer.
  4. We view change as emergent from an accountable, accessible, and collaborative process, rather than as a point at the end of the process.
  5. We see the role of the designer as a facilitator rather than an expert.
  6. We believe that everyone is an expert based on their own lived experience, and that we all have unique and brilliant contributions to bring to a design process.
  7. We share design knowledge and tools with our communities.
  8. We work towards sustainable, sommunity-led and controlled outcomes.
  9. We work towards non-expolitative solutions that reconnect us to the earth and to each other.
  10. Before seeking new design solutions, we look for what is already working at the community level. We honor and uplift traditional, indigenous, and local knowledge and practices.

These are so good right? I see the roots of [participatory design] here, but the framing is so fresh and relevant to this political and cultural moment – especially in light of global rise of authoritarianism, techno-facism, and ecological collapse, to say nothing of the historical effects of racism, sexism and capitalism that have brought us here. Rather than simply being a critique, these are positive principles for doing design work and collaboration, action research if you will.

I think you will see some more notes pop up here as I dig through this text.