about JusticexDesign

What is JusticexDesign investigating?

The design of human-made objects, systems, and content is not neutral. Oppressive and liberatory forces are often woven into the fabric of human-made systems like media, architecture, government, transportation, and schools. At the same time, oppressive and liberatory forces are linked together and fueled by larger systems. How might learners and the teachers they teach make visible the ways injustices can be designed? How might we explore the complexity of connected oppressions? What pedagogies and practices might encourage learners to interrupt patterns of power that perpetuate and systematize oppression? How might young people—and all of us—become sensitive to the design of our own participation so that we may envision ways to participate more, or differently?

The JxD project foregrounds critical applications of Project Zero's Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning, exploring the intersections of maker-centered learning, systems thinking, and social justice. The JxD project is investigating pedagogies and practices for cultivating a critical sensitivity to design, or a sensitivity to designed injustices, and activating critical maker empowerment, or the disposition to re/examine and re/envision one’s participation in co-liberation. Approaching power, oppression, and justice as malleable rather than fixed, the JxD project’s justice-directional pedagogical tools support students to:

  1. look closely at context, history, legacy, and representation when interacting with, consuming, and/or creating human-designed systems and content

  2. explore the complexity and multidimensionality of forces of power that shape and influence everyday systems and content, and

  3. find opportunities to redesign their own participation in justice-directional and pattern-disruptive ways

During the first phase of the project (2019-2020), JusticexDesign developed a framework for practitioners to explore these ideas in their teaching contexts. The project continues to refine the framework and offers classroom tools as well as stories from classrooms where teachers are applying the JxD tools.

How did JusticexDesign get started?

With support from Jim Reese, Director of the Professional Development Collaborative at the Washington International School (WIS), Edward P. Clapp, principal investigator at Project Zero, and Jaime Chao Mignano, STEAM Community Coordinator at WIS, Sarah Sheya founded JusticexDesign (JxD) with a collective of teachers from WIS and six public and parochial schools across Washington, D.C., in 2019. This collective, the JxD Origin Educators, along with the cohort members from JxD's first two years, contribute immensely to JxD research and tool development.

This Agency by Design post introduces the JusticexDesign project and highlights some foundations to the JxD work:

"In their book Design Justice, Communications scholar and activist Sasha Constanza Chock notes the importance of examining the ways design might perpetuate systemic oppression by considering who benefits from design, who is harmed, and how the design of objects and systems might more equitably distribute “design’s benefits and burdens.” Design Justice is a growing field in the realms of design and technology. While the JusticexDesign (JxD) project approaches “design” in more general terms, many of the principles guiding the Design Justice movement resonate with JxD's work.

Maker-centered pedagogies and learning environments, by design, disrupt traditional models of teaching and learning by positioning the learner as leader and the teacher as facilitator, elevating student voice, and encouraging students to shape their learning experiences. The Agency by Design (AbD) framework for maker-centered learning, its accompanying practices, and the Making Across the Curriculum project are foundational to JxD."