Intersectional Feminism situates, as Patricia Hill Collins notes, “race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, ability, and age [as] reciprocally constructing phenomena” (2015, 3). Key here is that these mutually constructing, related categories underlie and shape intersecting systems of power, which produce and reinforce social inequalities. As bell hooks notes, this implies a direct a commitment and connection to political action both inside and beyond the academy (2000, 6). Intersectional feminism as a concept and movement began with black feminist scholars and activists (such as Kimberle Crenshaw and Audre Lorde) as an effort to re-center black marginalized experiences within discourse. We recognize in this a continued need to de-center whiteness and white feminist frameworks within our research and activism.

Design is about getting from the present to a preferred future (Simon 1969);  design research is about providing knowledge to designers to improve decision-making and action during that process. That may mean giving designers better ways of understanding the present, so that they can determine what futures would be preferable; helping designers determine how best to get to preferred futures; and helping designers determine how to validate their ideas about the preferred future and how to get there (Ruecker and Roberts-Smith 2017). Like other designers, design researchers normally study the future by making prototypes. But whereas most designers make “production” prototypes to improve the functionality of a future product, design researchers make “experimental” prototypes for the purpose of analyzing and gathering information about the present, or “conceptual” prototypes for developing and testing theories about how to get to the preferred future. The result of design research is most often a “concept model”, or a validated theory of a preferred future and how to get there, which can be used by other designers (Ruecker and Roberts-Smith 2018). The concept, like opinion or trust or friendship or interpretation, spans the present and future: the model should give us superior access to use of the concept.

Performance includes all types of gestures (embodied, representational, collective, individual). These gestures can be both public and private and they inform one’s sense of collective and individual identity and reception by others. Drawing on the work of Diana Taylor, we see performance as “a process, a praxis, an episteme, a mode of transmission, an accomplishment, and a means of intervening in the world” (2003, 15). Performance can be speculative and even fictional; often aesthetically-invested performance makes important contributions to our capacity to imagine possibilities and open new potentials (Sack 2015). Performance is an active practice that has implications for and impact on our cultural structures, social spaces, imaginaries, and everyday lives.

Technology, through a feminist perspective, broadens our understandings of the term to include not only the artifact, the technical object itself, but “also the cultures and practices associated with technologies” (Judy Wajcman 2010, 1). Under a feminist lens, the sociopolitical economic elements of technological systems are inseparable from the technical object. This suggests that as researchers and scholars we need to account for the ways in which technological systems easily standardize themselves as part of the status quo. Here we adopt William Worthen’s understanding of technology, which holds that tools become technologies with affordances beyond the limited range for which they were designed, when they are actually being used in the infinite range of “value-driven and value-producing patterns of conduct” they facilitate (Worthen 2010, 21 citing Hershock 1999, 21).

Public Practice. Intersectional feminism, design research, performance, and technology all rest on the basic premise that human beings exist and act only in relation to other humans and non-humans in shared environments and communities; in other words, in publics. By “public practice”, we mean actions that are informed by this “relational” understanding of human existence, which acknowledges that no act is purely individual–– that all acts have consequences for others, that just relations depend upon sustained encounters with one another, and that such encounters must make space for the acknowledgment of lived experiences and histories of sustained harms (Llewellyn and Llewellyn 2015). To this end, we ask how public spaces can become more feminist.

Last updated: October, 2019.