In science and technology studies, the jury is still out about the utility of operationalizing design thinking and, in particular, the mode of empathy as good practice for making inclusive designs. Communications scholar Lily Irani (2018) and historian Lee Vinsel (2018) suggest that design thinking collapses the variety and complexity of design activities and theories into simple marketing and commercialization tools.
by Logan D. A. Williams
I'm an engineer and social scientist that loves science fiction. My favorite authors as a child were Octavia Butler and Anne McCaffrey. Octavia Butler's Dawn, I originally took off of the shelf in my public library because it had my name in the title. Don't judge me! (Wait, how did you peruse the spines of hardcover books as a teenager?) Subsequently, Dawn became this Black woman's favorite book. A win-win-win for title, character and content as far as I was concerned! Apparently, I had good taste: Octavia Butler was a Black American woman who won Hugo and Nebula Awards and was the first science fiction author to win a MacArthur genius grant. Anne McCaffrey was an Irish-American who was the first woman to win Hugo and Nebula Awards. Both were inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.
When reading Dawn you will likely find yourself responding along a spectrum from rejecting to embracing the strangeness. Way back in the 1990s, I had a similar response to what Kevin describes for Goodreads in 2017, "I've never really read anything like this before. It had some of the most alien aliens I've ever come across, and it spends a lot of time exp[l]oring their physiology, gender, sexuality, and society, all parts that I really enjoyed. The whole thing is very unnerving, blunt, and extremely uncomfortable."
by Logan D. A. Williams
As STEAM professionals, we are predisposed towards action. We are designers, planners, artists, maintenance staff, makers, experimenters. If the heroes of COVID-19 are medical professionals, and the essential workers of COVID-19 are grocery store cashiers, then STEAM professionals are the essential manufacturers of all that a quarantining world desires to consume. Our crucial role becomes evident if you look at our most recent contributions: experimenting with creating vaccines; producing hand sanitizer after store shelves emptied; demonstrating how folks can use materials they have on hand at home to make face-masks; making zoom versions of our favorite entertainment shows on network television.
Yet providing needed contributions to COVID-19 adds to a general belief that the objects, processes, and infrastructures we design or manufacture can only affect good in the world. When we naively believe in the power of technology and innovation for good, then we are unwilling to recognize that sometimes, as Ruha Benjamin writes in her book Race After Technology "… rather than challenging or overcoming the cycles of inequity, technical fixes too often reinforce and even deepen the status quo."