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”

Fun Lifestyle

Want to watch: weaving fun into your life

Entrepreneurship Learning

Went to Cavedweller Spotlight #2

RSVPed Attending Caveday Spotlight #2

We are a global community working on a huge variety of projects.
But we rarely get a glimpse of what’s created in The Cave.
Come see what some of our members are passionate about.

Maggie Downs (Palm Springs, CA) – writing on the (time-traveling) power of smell – working on a book

  • Scent is the only sense that isn’t filtered –> more direct line to memory, remembered emotions
  • The Smellitzer – Disney aroma-diffusing machine
    • I have little interest in going to Disney for the experience, but I am very interested in *how* Disney crafts and curates experience — this for smell, “go away green” to ‘hide’ the utilitarian necessities that might detract from the magic and illusion
  • “Smell Walk” tours
  • Art exhibit focused on smell by Sissel Tolaas

Wenlin Tan (Turin, Italy) – podcast on the heroine’s journey

Tim Vreeland (Ventura, CA) – CaveDay brings him peace – indirectly led to his ADHD diagnosis

Sana B (Toronto, Canada) – business coach

  • We can learn from tapping into neglected parts of ourselves
  • “Abundance mindset” –> accepting our uniqueness

Samia Minnicks (Richmond, VA) – photo restoration and wedding photographer with focus on Black love

  • focus on impact vs. perfectionism with photo restoration
  • falls in love with the subject of the photo for every photo restoration, such a deep time spent together that raises so many questions

Flights of Foundry: Transforming the Castle

Watched Flights of Foundry by Katharine Duckett from

Fairy tales provide a template for much of our modern fantasy fiction, and for enduring constructions of disability that come loaded with stereotypes, harmful messaging, and a tendency toward tragedy. In this presentation, we will explore those tropes and how disabled and chronically ill writers have subverted and transformed them.

Fairy tales revolve around transformation

Trad fairy tales feature elements of the fantastical, possess their own internal logic, and may involve a quest

Disability often used in fairy tales as:

  • disability as punishment
  • disability as obstacle
  • disability as loss of agency
  • disability as mark of moral deficiency or inhumanity

Examples of fairy tales with disability:

  • Rapunzel – punishment – prince is blinded
  • Cinderella – punishment – stepsisters are blinded and/or maimed to fit their feet in the slipper
  • Little Mermaid – loss of agency, punishment – chronic pain as the price of legs, unable to communicate
  • Beauty and the Beast – punishment / inhumanity – his appearance makes him an object of pity and terror
  • The Twelve Brothers – lost agency – sister must remain mute to restore her brothers from swans to humans

Grimms notoriously removed dialogue from female characters because they believed silent women were virtuous

“In fairy tales, the transformation of the individual relies on fairs and magic – or the gods – because it is understood that society itself can’t (and indeed won’t) improve” – Amanda Leduc, Disfigured

Burden of transformation is on the individual

Grimms added disability to their stories a lot – able-bodiedness was the idea, not the norm

Something that is needed > something added > balance (lack > fulfillment) (disability > ability)

“Reading disability merely as a metaphor for something else is in itself a form of erasure, because it abstracts the disabled individual.” — Ann Schmiesing, Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales

“We turn disability into a symbol because it has been socialized to be not useful…” Amanda Leduc, Disfigured

Reading Recommendations:

Creating New Disabled Fairy Tales

  • center the experience and agency of disabled characters
  • write disability as a lived reality, not only metaphor
  • prioritize research from disabled communities
  • recognize harmful legacies
  • examine the ableist foundations of worldbuilding in fairy tales
Society Writing

Flights of Foundry: Ways to Decolonize Your Fiction Writing

Watched Flights of Foundry by Vida Cruz from

A colonial mindset permeates everything we do and say, whether we recognize it or not, like it or not. The work of decolonizing is difficult but worthwhile, and for fiction, it is rooted in being open to craft concepts that may be contrary, even antithetical, to what you were taught in school and in writing books. Topics that will be covered in this presentation include writing from a place of societal trauma, radical acceptance in characters, active vs. inactive protagonists, harmful cultural values and attitudes, non-western narrative structures, therapy-taught mental health lessons that can manifest in fiction, etc.

Empires are portrayed as monocultures – one religion, one set of

Other forms of government do not squash complexity – vassal states, unrecognized states, thalassocracies (sea-based empire, not interior land)

Add complexity – multiple languages, history / old and new interacting, multiple religions / mythologies

Notice what is not being noticed by your characters and why

Don’t italicize non-English words which highlights their difference

(TD note: a lot of this seems to come down to writing well, not relying on stereotypes)

Characters without agency can still be active

“Activeness” is rooted in the American values of individualism – ignores the contribution and influence of community and society – conflict and competition are tools of the colonizer (divide and conquer)

Other concepts to use instead of conflict and competition:

  • community building
  • forgiveness
  • mercy
  • acceptance
  • runion
  • reparation
  • self-actualization

Kishotenketsu = Japanese storytelling structure

  • introduction (ki)
  • development (sho)
  • twist (ten)
  • conclution (ketsu)

Themes are not universal

Often hero’s journey ends just after rebellion or revolution, with them taking power – with no sign of how they will change things that made life bad for others

Reading Recommendations:

Mental Health

Watched The UX of Burnout

Watched The UX of Burnout: There and Back Again by Thorsten Jonas from Adobe Max

Join this session to hear one strategic UX consultant’s personal journey through a burn-out and the changes he made to work life as a creative person and leader.

At Adobe Max 2020 virtual conference.

Presented by Thorsten Jonas.

Related to this personal talk. He makes a good point that we can still be creative even while we are burned out but that we can’t use that as an excuse not to deal with problems.

He described a familiar pattern of having trouble, taking a break, then returning without changing anything (which lets the problem return).

His approach to recovering from burnout:

  1. Use your tools (things you know help you)
  2. Focus on things besides work / strengthen your personal life
  3. Reevaluate work
  4. Start new things, connect with new people, try new directions

“The key to healing is the confrontation with yourself.”