Activism Art and Design

Politicized Design: escaping oppressive systems with participatory movements

Watched Politicizing Design from the Grassroots by Bibiana Oliveira SerpaBibiana Oliveira Serpa from Futuress

Drawing from popular activist movements in Latin America, this talk explores the possibilities for the politicization of design.

In her PhD thesis that she recently defended for the Design program of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (ESDI/UERJ) in Brazil, Bibiana delved into her experiences as an active member of different civil society grassroots movements to reveal some of the political, ethical, and practical issues that permeate the transformative action of these collectives.

Through Militant Research Methodology and inspired by her action in the fields of popular education and feminism, she traced paths for a possible politicization of the Design field. In this conversation, Bibiana shares some of the lessons she learned from this journey, articulating four axes she considers crucial for the politicization of Design: ontology, epistemology, practice, and content.

Presented by Bibiana Serpa, a PhD visual designer from Brazil

Design & Opressão (Design and Oppression Network)

Articulação de Mulheres Brasileiras

What is militant research?

  • aims to educate people politically
  • participatory — cannot only research
  • acts in the “context of discovery” not “context of justification” — not seeking to support an existing theory, but to learn
  • always collective

Process of politicization

social movements are self-educating and self-transforming –> politicization

politicization = political learning — “a relational and experiential process”

Activism Getting Shit Done

Maintenance supports change

Bookmarked The Year Ahead by Nora N. Khan (

What I’ve learned: their maintenance in crisis seems both a matter of “grit”, as much as a matter of great invention… Maintenance is the daily, unsexy work that’s needed for the radical to bloom. It is thinking-heavy work that doesn’t get labeled as intellectual. Maintenance allows for a practice of *thinking with,* and *thinking through,* to a way out… The work of maintenance is foundational to create new spaces to protect that rare idea, that tender practice, that thread of a thought that can so easily be lost.

Not sure how I feel about this argument but I’m intrigued.

Activism Future Building Personal Growth Relationships

Allow room for allies to make mistakes — because we all make them

Replied to we will not cancel us by AdrienneAdrienne (

We hurt people.

Of course we did, we are human. We were traumatized/socialized away from interdependence. We learned to hide everything real, everything messy, weak, complex. We learned that fake shit hurts, but it’s acceptable…

Canceling is punishment, and punishment doesn’t stop the cycle of harm, not long term.

We will be accountable, rigorous in our accountability, all of us unlearning, all of us crawling towards dignity. We will learn to set and hold boundaries, communicate without manipulation, give and receive consent, ask for help, love our shadows without letting them rule our relationships…

Shaming and condemning mistakes simply makes others less willing to try or speak up, and less willing to admit their mistakes. This has a chilling effect to keep people in line with what the loudest have decided is right, even when there are valid arguments for other perspectives, and hardly encourages relationship building across identities and ideals. Righteousness is just as unhelpful from the liberal corner as it is from the conservative.

You can hold people accountable without being a dick about it. Not to tone police, but sometimes people on social media talk about others as if they aren’t a person too, and the intensity of condemnation feels greater than the sin. “Nice” is bullshit, but you can be kind and critical.

I guess I’m pretty sympathetic to the choices workers feel they have to make to survive under capitalism. I’m thinking of a disabled person who was cancelled (I think in 2022) when it came out they worked at a military research company for the health insurance and flexible work conditions. Some of the cancelling might have been because they had cancelled others in the past? But that’s just perpetuating the cycle. I’d rather see the conversation “and this is why you shouldn’t cancel people folks” than a dog pile of shame.

We talk about how there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, and I wonder how much that extends to our lives too. It very much becomes a judgment call of what crosses the line to be part of the progressive tribe: ok, working at military companies is out, how about tech companies? Is it only bad if you work on Google’s military contracting projects, or is the whole company tainted? What about working for social media companies that sell our data, if you’re in another department? Is working in anything involving marketing out? How about owning a house, knowing the land was stolen from indigenous people and our treaties with them not honored? How about owning an iPhone knowing that conditions are so bad workers commit suicide on shift? Is catching an Uber home from the airport ok? Is flying ok? Shopping at Amazon?

It is easy to judge others’ choices but defend our own hypocrisies and compromises, instead of helping people recognize the harm they are causing, acknowledging and making up for ours, and working to change the systems that force people into hard choices (like advocating for universal health care and fixing our disability qualifications). I’m not naming or excusing any choices here, and also not supporting social punishment.

The lines I draw for myself are different from everyone else’s, and may change over time with my perspective and circumstances. I have the privilege of owning a home, being married to someone whose job gives me health care, and having a good savings and no student loans; that gives me the ability to make choices others cannot. Physical ability, wealth, family support, obligations and debts, and mental health all shape our decisions.

Maybe some of my perspective here comes from years of being a vegetarian. Many people took my personal calculus to be a judgment on their choice to eat meat, but it really was a personal decision; all I wanted from others was for there to be literally anything I could eat if they hosted (I usually just brought something). Now, for a variety of reasons I’ve become pescetarian. Maybe one day I’ll go veg again, or maybe someday I’ll start eating meat 🤷‍♀️ We can’t necessarily predict how our circumstances will change our choices.

Systems of oppression and those in power acting unjustly should be the main targets of action, while we offer solidarity to workers doing their best to get by, even if sometimes they screw up. It’s easier to attack or ostracize a nobody than to speak truth to power — but it’s a poor outlet for emotional pain and frustration. Purity and ideological perfection are dangerous social concepts, and I would rather have people feel safe enough to make mistakes than withdraw from community for fear.

See also:

The addictive nature of Twitter

Cancel Culture

Activism Culture Future Building The Internet

Defending against abuse, violence, and viewpoints of hatred

(I’m still working through this. There are good arguments on both sides.)

Tools and social norms shape the conversations and interactions people have online and on different platforms. But those inclined towards abusive behavior are less likely to either follow the rules of social norms or to allow themselves to be limited by tools; those motivated towards abuse will find ways to do harm. By limiting tools that can be used for good in hopes of quelling harmful behavior, is the damper put on positive uses greater than the reduction of harmful behavior? How much does depriving fascists of tools for virality also impact our ability to fight fascism?

I imagine there is a balance specific to every tool and platform that should be evaluated — and an argument towards greater or lesser protection depending on the community’s values.

The QT — functionality to natively quote another’s post in a new thread — is currently under debate in the Twitter to Mastodon exodus. It’s interesting to see this case study in how differently people use the internet.

For me, adding context or commentary is nearly universally helpful when sharing information. I add my own notes to almost everything I save here besides basic bookmarks. In my experience on Twitter, RTs (re-sharing without comment), which are allowed) are often obnoxious because they are effortless — QTing to add context or commentary requires more effort. On Twitter, I usually wouldn’t follow people whose feed was filled with RTs instead of QTs, which I read as symptomatic of an uncritical viewpoint or someone with nothing of their own to say. (That was probably too harsh of me, because it can be a kindness to boost attention to some things or people.)

From a discussion on, Mike Hall says:

My “keep Twitter useful for me” recipe included a timeline filter in Tweetbot that weeded out RTs. I initially had QTs in the filter, too, but found they were actually useful most of the time. RTs felt like the real poison to me, less from a “this is harmful to one specific person” vantage and more from a “this is just a delivery vehicle for thought-terminating clichés, most extreme examples, and safest way to say ‘yeah, that'” point of view.

So at least n= more than one in my “RTs are worse than QTs” viewpoint 😂

But. I haven’t been attacked online. Maybe taking away as many opportunities for abuse is worthwhile, even if abusers will find another avenue for attack, and it sacrifices a tool that can be used for good.

Annalee Newitz describes the “nonconsensual virality” that removes quotes from context and attacks character:

Let me put a phrase into your mind: nonconsensual virality. It’s why quote-posts on Twitter led to harassment. People’s words stolen, taken out of context, used purely to incite a mob of griefers. The answer is to give #Mastodon users control over whether someone else can quote-post them, with a simple “quote or not” setting that can be set before or after the post goes up. We should be allowed to stop people from taking our posts viral without our consent.

Here’s where I struggle, because personally I have derived a lot of value from others using QTs as a teaching tool, and I also think there is value in having means to critique, but in other areas my stance has been to default to protection.

On a Mastodon thread, Katherine Alejandra Cross makes the point that the harm may exceed the good regardless of the numbers:

There is every possibility that if we were to count up every QT and were able to objectively label them as harassment or neutral or positive in tone, we might find harassing QTs outnumbered. But then we get into quality over quantity.

What if the abusive QTs just matter more? What if they loom larger in the public consciousness? What if they generate more engagement? What if that engagement is itself largely abusive? (And this is the heart of the problem, by the way.)

The other related stance I was discussing with a friend is the “punch Nazis” thing. I’m hardline ‘a tolerant society requires intolerance of the intolerant’ BUT also am not convinced personal violence is the answer here. What does it accomplish besides personal satisfaction?

Is the idea that fascists are so insecure they will be so embarrassed by being punched/ a public repudiation of their views that they will slink away into silence? …but isn’t that how we got here, for decades making it uncouth to express racist views in public, but they still lived on behind closed doors? Does driving the fascists into cloistered circles protect us from them?

I am also scared of this approach because 1) fascists tend to be conservative and pro-gun and all too willing to kill, and 2) police and people in power are often drawn to the continued power and status quo of fascism, and it’s easier for them to apply violence to the marginalized, especially if they have the excuse of “they started it!”, and 3) might =/= right.

If we normalize violence as a form of critique in our society, will that make it easier for protofascists to increase their use of violence without public pushback? Or does it not make a difference what we do because fascists are violent fuckers inherently, and they will always find an excuse for violence, so may as well get a few shots in?

This tension is part of what I love about Batman: he’s positioned in his stories as the hero, yet vigilantism is Not Good. He has “his line” that he will not kill, but seems ok with everything up to it. The horror of the self-ordained savior is why we love Watchmen. The “actually society’s problems can’t all be solved by punching and to what extent does relying on my physical power condone and reinforce our government’s reliance on violence” is what could be interesting about Superman. Because the mob rule of social media is vigilantism — sometimes just, and sometimes not.

The nonviolent protests of the Civil Rights movement turned the oppressors’ use of violence against them, enduring harm when it could be televised and publicized to turn public opinion.

Defending against fascists is America’s biggest problem right now, so it’s valuable to interrogate the methods we use. How do we balance the use of these tools to regulate power and abuse against the certainty those same tactics will be turned back against us?

I suspect the tools are less important than the cultural context of moral righteousness for behavior that is legal but not socially acceptable. Judging others reinforces our view of ourselves as good. Social media is The Lottery, with that day’s Main Character the victim; when we participate in mob justice, we accept it as a tool in our collective arsenal.

Activism Personal Growth Political Commentary

Read Rest is Resistance

Read Rest Is Resistance

Far too many of us have claimed productivity as the cornerstone of success. Brainwashed by capitalism, we subject our bodies and minds to work at an unrealistic, damaging, and machine‑level pace of work –– feeding into the same engine that enslaved millions into brutal labor for its virtuous benefit. Our worth does not reside in how much we produce, especially for a system that exploits and dehumanizes us. Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy.

From the founder and creator of The Nap Ministry, Rest Is Resistance is a battle cry, a guidebook, a map for a movement, and a field guide for the weary and hopeful. It is rooted in spiritual energy and centered in Black liberation, womanism, somatics, and Afrofuturism. With captivating storytelling and practical advice, all delivered in Hersey’s lyrical voice and informed by her deep experience in theology, activism, and performance art, Rest Is Resistance is a call to action and manifesto for those who are sleep deprived, searching for justice, and longing to be liberated from the oppressive grip of Grind Culture.

As someone who’s experienced burnout and still struggles with letting go of perfectionism and productivity, I was on board with a lot of this.

It’s interesting to think of rest as inherently valuable, not valuable by virtue of letting us feel rested — as an activity in itself, unnecessary to be justified by the outcome we produce from it. I fall into this thinking trap sometimes, of framing my breaks in terms of making me more effective and productive rather than part of life and a right to which I’m entitled.

Much of the book is repetitive — but that is intentional, as she frames herself the Nap Minister and approaches the book as a secular (theoretically) sermon, drawing on oral culture’s use of repetition to drive points home emotionally.

Her approach is rooted in religious beliefs and the text is supposedly secular, but steeped in spiritual language that can be a lot to wade through if you aren’t spiritual. She is dismissive of anyone who is not spiritual, claiming that capitalism and grind culture have separated us from our innate spirituality 🙄 We cannot rest because we are not spiritual. Thanks for the judgment lady. I almost quit at 75% because I don’t feel the need to be insulted but ultimately pushed through.

Unfortunately, she relied on spirituality as her justification for why humans deserve rest: because they are divine and their existence is a miracle 🙄 This feels like an oversight and missed opportunity to dig into this more. Relying on unexplained claims that depend on specific spiritual beliefs is not very convincing. Her explanation of the Dream Space also needed more, in my opinion.

She also claims it is necessary to “detox” from technology completely to be able to rest. I understand her stance on social media being an expression of Grind Culture, but I feel demanding a complete removal of technology is dismissive of those for whom technology is a connector of community — disabled people, anyone living in an area where they are out of place ideologically, anyone who does not have the opportunity to form local in-person community.

Activism The Internet

Asserting the right to exist in public online spaces

I appreciate these arguments. The right to exist in a public space hits home with me personally as I have struggled with taking up space in the world, and have worked to feel more comfortable existing in public and asserting my needs. Ceding a platform to the racists and fascists and sexists amplifies their voices while diminishing mine, and skews the perception that there are more of them than there are.

Seeing Elon take an axe to Twitter has made me think more about what I want out of online spaces and my online experience, and grapple with the good in Twitter.

I’m still not sure *I* want to spend time on Twitter given its impact on my brain, considering I had already pulled back from using it several years ago. I also am reading The Shallows and it’s prompting a rethinking of how I read online. I’m still mulling over what serves me best: feeding my curiosity and delight with a wide array of topics that nevertheless hold little practical value and are fed to me by others, or prioritizing being more active in seeking out what to read with an emphasis on longform material that supports development of patience and deeper thought?


What happens to activism after Twitter?


For all its failings, one space where Twitter has excelled is empowering activism: calling out injustice, community organizing, and on-the-ground reporting from dozens of protests at once. Conservatives bitch about their fascist tweets getting deleted and “misinformation” because they can’t tell you about “the ivermectin cure,” but what actually seems to be censored and misrepresented in mainstream press is disruptions to power: protesters are painted as looters, police spray children with tear gas at nonviolent protests, journalists get black-bagged and shot despite their press badges. I watched all this happening from afar in BLM protests around the country – these three particular instances were in Bellevue, Seattle and Portland. And the “terrifying” Capital Hill Autonomous Zone or whatever they called themselves planted a community garden in a public park — oh the atrocity! 😱 I could read and see accounts from multiple people at various protests, photos and videos from multiple angles, and read accounts from journalists at protests, and real community members could dispel fear mongering and scapegoating.

If Twitter collapses, where do we go for that kind of information?

If we didn’t have Twitter, would any of us have heard about George Floyd or Breonna Taylor?

Activism has adapted to make use of online platforms and advocate to a larger audience. I haven’t been going to protests in person, so I don’t know how essential that link is.

If Twitter collapses, what happens to the women of Iran right now?

Can federated / distributed spaces allow the kind of real-time information spread that has made Twitter invaluable for activism?

Mastodon only searches hashtags within your (an?) instance from my understanding. You need to already know who to follow or be in an instance where people are sharing that kind of information.

(☝️ I do not know this to be true first-hand but wouldn’t be surprised given the model)

And the IndieWeb already struggles with discoverability.

I don’t think TikTok can serve the same function — too easy in their algorithmic model to keep anything from spreading, and video is so much slower to produce and consume than text that you can’t follow as many separate accounts to get an understanding of what’s happening.

Facebook gave us genocide in Myanmar. They’re not going to be a help here. Instagram doesn’t seem built in a way that’s easy to follow trending topics. Their ephemeral posts (stories) aren’t easy to find or follow. I haven’t used it lately so I don’t know how Reels work.

Activism Political Commentary Society

What does life look like?

Liked Why did images of early pregnancy cause such a firestorm on TikTok? by Lux Alptraum (The Verge)

Images of what an early pregnancy looks like rattled through social media recently, creating an unexpected backlash for abortion rights commentators.

@auntiekilljoy #greenscreen they need to show these images at every political debate about abortion #feminism #abortion #fyp ♬ original sound – Jessica Valenti

(link to TikTok)

I took an ethics class in college, and one of our topics was abortion. Tl;dr it’s hard to argue that an unimplanted blastocyst — a tiny bundle of cells that grows for a few days before attaching to the uterine wall — is a human being entitled to the same rights as me, a fully formed adult*. And even after implantation, the tissue doesn’t look like what we’d think of as a human for a long time, per the above TikTok.

* Basically it requires belief in a soul. I don’t believe in souls. So passing laws that prohibit drugs that inhibit implantation — which are based on this belief — means politicians are imposing someone else’s religious beliefs on me. Which is not constitutional.

Basically anti-abortion advocates are lying and manipulating the public by using images from the very small portion of later-term abortions to weigh on people’s emotions and take away women’s right to an abortion before then. They know that it’s hard to show most people that tiny bundle of tissue and tell them it has more rights than they do.

And this is why truth matters.

Activism Political Commentary Society

Article pairing: vigilante NIMBYism

Karens and the nature of evil by Eric Hoel

the Karen meme serves a necessary and important function, specifically because of a naivety deep in American culture. For what American culture lacks most is an adult understanding of what motivates evil. America’s notion of evil is always the childish one of good guys fighting bad guys. But that’s not what evil is. What evil actually is, most often, is good corrupted.


‘It’s got nasty’: the battle to build the US’s biggest solar power farm by Oliver Milman (The Guardian)

This is the kind of thing that’s stopping local action on climate: people who feel they are protecting themselves and their communities.

Activism Political Commentary

Overrepresented majority

Bookmarked overrepresented majority (ORM) « Definitions « (

Underrepresented can imply that the group can do more to represent themselves.

Meanwhile, the overrepresented majority is usually the group that possesses the power to influence which groups are majoritised (and subsequently receive power) and which groups are minoritised.

When using any term for a group, it’s important to contextualise it into people. So, for example, “people from the overrepresented majority are less likely to be affected by this change”