Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sugared Puppy Dog Tails: Gender and Design

This is a new article in Interactions by Elizabeth Churchill which focuses on questions of gender, identity, and empowerment provoked by design and technology.

In the article, Elizabeth holds the opinion that "designers should think about gender at a level of sophistication beyond color and shape. We should be reflective and conscious of the assumptions of use and user that are being built into our products. We should know how we are reifying and/or reinforcing behavioral norms or challenging them. And just as we recognize white space in graphic design is not an absence of content, we need to be conscious of who is not present in the cast of designed-for characters."

I believe she's bringing into light important questions about how design influences the ways we come to identify the world. And that design has the power to persuade us into believing there are "appropriate" ways of defining and interacting with it based on our gender. It does this by communicating through appearance, (re)actions, gestures, and embodied experiences and exists across the design gamut--communications, interactions, objects, and environments. In her view, "such representations lead to “incidental learning” about who we can be and what is possible/appropriate for us to do, and in this way, these characters embody messages about gender-appropriate behaviors."

Read all about it.

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