Activism by Design
Making Speculative HCI Matter

We all love our speculative methods. But what good do they do?

To imagine possible futures is to be able to change them; to be able to "bend" the future to be more desireable. But, as prior work has observed, who gets to speculate matters a great deal tran2019gets,kozubaev2020expanding,. Scholars producing speculative artifacts has its place, but who else can speculate, and what could they gain from learning how to?

This work proposes speculative methods in HCI as a route for activism, particularly among tech workers such as designers.

This concept is not without precedent. Turkopticon has had longevity, creating lasting infrastructures out of critical practices. Irani2014 Prior work has also involved activists in speculative practices; Asad et al had activists produce prototypes that expressed their particular needs. asad2014speculative

But no work yet has produced a speculative method that has itself become a lasting infrastructure among tech workers—a part of design as common as think-alouds or user personas. [I think we could make a strong case for why tech workers may need this sort of thing: dissent, challenging values, etc].

Here, we describe work that made speculative practices for tech workers. [Overview, our challenges, etc…]

Our goal in describing this work is to inspire a younger generation of students to apply speculative methods to further justice and activism.

Case studies

Adversary Personas & Threat Fictions

Richmond's headline work


  • [tran2019gets] Tran O'Leary, Zewde, Mankoff & Rosner, Who gets to future? Race, representation, and design methods in Africatown, 1-13, in in: Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, edited by (2019)
  • [kozubaev2020expanding] Kozubaev, Elsden, Howell, S\ondergaard, Merrill, Schulte & Wong, Expanding Modes of Reflection in Design Futuring, 1-15, in in: Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, edited by (2020)
  • [Irani2014] Irani & Silberman, From critical design to critical infrastructure: Lessons from turkopticon, Interactions, (2014). doi.
  • [asad2014speculative] Asad, Fox & Le Dantec, Speculative activist technologies, iConference 2014 Proceedings, (2014).

Date: 2020-11-02 Mon 00:00

Author: ffff

Created: 2020-11-02 Mon 16:54