The Structure of the Inquiry

In this book I analyze a series of designed computational artifacts and systems in order to better understand their political qualities and how the medium of computation is used in novel ways to express political issues. To do this, I have organized these artifacts and systems into three catego- ries—information design, social robots, and ubiquitous computing. Although within each of these categories there is a diversity of forms and functions, each category also highlights a fundamental quality of the medium of computation and brings to the fore distinctive attributes for political design. For example, information design highlights procedurality, which is the way that software generates representations and enables new forms of political images and interactive visual expressions. Social robots highlight embodiment, or the dynamic coupling of objects with the environment, and in the process raise issues concerning our future relations with intelligent artifacts. And ubiquitous computing highlights connectedness and the ways in which everyday objects become networked computational things, enabling new possibilities for participation in political expression. The purpose of making such categorical distinctions is to move closer to a medium particularity in design scholarship. In addition, the computational qualities of each category lend themselves to different tactics of adversarial design—revealing hegemony, reconfiguring the remainder, and articulating collectives. By exploring these categories and tactics together, my aim is to detail the ways that computational artifacts and systems can be understood as doing the work of agonism through design.

 
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