My Core Values:
THE “RATATOUILLE” PRINCIPLE: a good idea can come from anywhere.
(Forgive my reference to the Disney movie if you haven’t seen it) The movie’s fictive famous chef died asserted the idea that “anyone can cook” and was met with skepticism from those who felt “well, everyone can cook, but should everyone?” At the end, the revelatory moment is found in this quotation:
Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.
There’s a lot to be learned in the design world from this. I spent the summer looking at how a major tech company does participatory design. The higher-ups often were dismayed at the results, realizing that with a small N, most of the ideas people came up with were either not feasible or didn’t make sense as solutions.
It’s true that not everyone will have “good” (effective, feasible, desirable) ideas. But that doesn’t mean we should shut down and never listen to others. While not everything is a good idea, we need to remember that a good idea can come from anywhere. This means that part of your job as a designer or leader is to ways to unlock the genius in others and allow it a platform for expression, so the best ideas are celebrated, not the mouths that those ideas come from.
HUMILITY IS THE KEY TO TRUE LEADERSHIP: True genius and success emerge from networks, not from individuals.
I believe that success never comes from one person by themselves, it emerges through networks of people and how they interact with each other. America praises the individual, the founder, the CEO, the writer, the inventor, the risktaker, as this sort of singular nexus of brilliance and achievement. But I think that model is wrong.
I believe that there are no “geniuses”—rather, everyone has genius in them. I am not alone in thinking this.
If this is true, then we need to have a model for successful implementation (which often necessitates a sort of “authority” who acts) that still successfully celebrates and incorporate the genius of others in it. I believe that this is where humility comes in and remembering that positions of authority are first and foremost opportunities to serve others. Take for example the brilliant researcher and writer behind Godel Escher Bach, Douglas Hofstadter, who begins a book by acknowledging how his authorial genius is indebted largely to all of the individuals in his life:
The many friends [I am connected to] form a “cloud” in which I float; sometimes I think of them as the “metropolitan area” of which I, construed narrowly, am just the zone inside the official city limits.
HEART-CENTERED RATIONALISM: Make decisions that are balanced with both heart and mind
In pop culture, we tend to cleave matters of the heart and matters of the head from each other, insisting that one is emotional and the other is rational. Even the structures of our personality tests—meant to classify and inform individuals of themselves and their values—separate the way of the heart from the way of the head. For example, the Myers Briggs test allows your personality type to have either a heart-centered approach or a logic-centered approach. But are these two modes of being actually fundamentally opposed to each other?
I have not researched this (read: this is an opinion) but I wonder if this cleaving of heart from mind has to do with gender roles, gender education, and gender norms. If what I said is true, it would imply that the “male-normative” role of leader, as a constitutive fact of its founding, rejects matters of the heart as unimportant.
In my value system, matters of the heart are also matters of the mind. To leaders, these should and must be indistinguishable. We should therefore act rationally on matters of the heart, and act with the heart on matters of the mind. They are not separate. To reference Bruno Latour, we need to go beyond matters of fact and instead attend to “matters of concern.”
DON’T FORGET THE BODY: while it is attempting to attack “the system” or “the man” we can only view the system through materiality.
Our bodies situate us in space and time: our bodies are what situate us within abstractions like institutions, ideologies, and power structures. While it is tempting to just analyze the abstract system or statistics that compress materiality down so it can be more easily understood, we need to recontextualize what we know as being produced by specific bodies in specific places.
As bodies, we are inseparable from materiality. This is what connects us to histories of oppression, migration, power, and privilege. Privileged bodies forget their privilege because privilege is the ability to not have to “realize” that a door is open for you that is closed for others. When you do fieldwork or ethnography or interviews, you bring your body with you. This principle seeks to be aware of the body and how it may affect design research and practice.: for example, are the questions you’re asking and the site in which you’re asking them going to enable truth and honesty? Think for example the brilliant rhetorical move of the specialist who interviewed Blaisey Ford: this specialist used the opportunity to show how the site (the massive, televised, 5-minute structured government hearing) in which her testimony transpired stacks the odds against her and increases the likelihood of her failure to present evidence in a manner that will expose the truth if it is she who possesses it.
BEWARE THE TOTALIZING FORCE OF NARRATIVES: because we all can be unreliable narrators, we need to ask others to “read” our work for us.
If being an English major has taught me anything, it’s the concept of the ‘unreliable narrator’. Making products involves narratives. If you can’t see what I mean, study the pitch for a startup: the narrator first presents the problem then articulates a solution. What is chosen as the ingredients of the problem is a choice made by the narrator. The logic of the solution comes from how this problem is set up.
Humans are all fallible narrators because our brains are not built to function in isolation. Everyone has blind spots. Therefore, it’s important to surround yourself with people who will critically examine your work and the story you are telling. Have people read to see how you might be unreliable as a narrator!
Designing a Convening for the Rape Crisis
**note, I am focusing my response on cis-female-identifying assault victims, but I recognize and send my love to male assault victims. In a perfect world, I’d work with a cis-gender male and others of different gender expressions to make sure the platform is applicable to all**
In the wake of the FBI investigation and what ended up happening with Kavanaugh… I have to chose to design around this one. I’d want to design an intervention in which survivors of sexual assault at young ages (like high school) would be able to converge and express their experiences through creative writing, art, poetry, and storytelling… and then this work would be turned into a platform used to educate high school men about rape culture, the fallacy of the “boys will be boys” argument, and help men to empathize with the young women that they traumatize. It would both provide a safe space for assault survivors to tell their stories and create a community of support… but then it would also be a way to use those personal stories to catalyze real change. In terms of location, it may make sense to do it online as an internet movement because everyone could be in a special location that is safe for them and easily toggle in and out of participation as they needed. The classroom for the men would obviously need to take place at schools across the country, where the structures of authority can ensure that they take the material seriously and their full comprehension is being assessed at each stage.