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."