UX & Social Justice Pre-Conference Workshop

A Workshop Presented by Douglas Walls and Danielle Ridenour from the University of Central Florida

While scholars in technical communication have a long and robust history of ethical questioning (Katz, 1992; Dragga & Voss; 2001) they have also, recently given voice to a range of critical perspectives like Cultural Studies (Scott, Longo, & Wills, 2007) and Critical Race Theory (Williams and Pimentel, 2014) to address information and communication design. Others have made moves to address and place technical communicators and UX designers as user advocates addressing the needs of citizens engaged in everyday knowledge work of communities (Diehl, Grabill, Hart-Davidson, & Iyer, 2008) or the specifics of principles of usability that support public deliberation (Simmons & Zoetewey, 2012) as well as social justice advocacy in cross cultural contexts (Walton & Jones, 2013).

Contemporary communication design scholars face new challenges in social justice contexts as critical theories, design theories, and social justice theories constellate in such projects. Such multidisciplinary interactions may require, different processes and timelines from other types of industry work (Salvo, 2004). These constellations of disciplinary conversations present exciting chances to engage in theoretically robust ways with social justice focused UX that already live in the world such as Sackey and Ullmann’s Baked Potato (2011, 2012), Blexting (Gannes, 2014), or ROC United Diners’ Guide (2015).

What theories of social justice lend themselves to information design and research? How might we also engage our students to imagine and make new kinds of designs and interfaces that directly address or facilitate justice, diminish violence, or lessen oppression? How might the development of UX design projects differ from other service-learning projects? What are the unique information integrity problems associated such projects? What are the kinds alliances (community, academically, and professionally) must we make to support such work?

As communication and information design move toward social justice issues, articulating the problem spaces of social justice work becomes key for sustained disciplinary growth. In an attempt to articulate these issues for designers of communication and information interested in social justice issues, this audience-involved workshop will engage in affinity mapping protocol. Affinity diagramming is a useful tool to finding the relationships between ideas and making sense of large and diverse concerns. Workshop members will walk away with a better sense of problem articulation for social justice and UX work.


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Dragga, S., & Voss, D. (2001). Cruel Pies: The Inhumanity of Technical Illustrations. Technical Communication, 48(3), 265–274.

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Katz, S. B. (1992). The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric, Technology, and the Holocaust. College English, 54(3), 255–275. doi:10.2307/378062

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Scott, J. B., Longo, B., & Wills, K. V. (2007). Critical Power Tools: Technical Communication and Cultural Studies (illustrated edition.). State University of New York Press.

Sackey, D. J., & Ullmann, N. (2012). Visualizing data, encouraging change: Technical interventions in food purchasing. In Professional Communication Conference (IPCC), 2012 IEEE International (pp. 1–5). doi:10.1109/IPCC.2012.6408654

Sackey, D., & Ullmann, N. (2011). Baked Potato: Supporting Differences in the U.S. Food System. In CHI 2011. Vancouver, Canada: ACM Press. Retrieved from http://ouvyt.com/2011/baked-potato-supporting-differences-in-the-u-s-food-system/

Simmons, W. M., & Zoetewey, M. W. (2012). Productive Usability: Fostering Civic Engagement and Creating More Useful Online Spaces for Public Deliberation. Technical Communication Quarterly, 21(3), 251–276. doi:10.1080/10572252.2012.673953

Williams, M. F., & Pimentel, O. (Eds.). (2014). Communicating Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in Technical Communication. Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Co., Inc.

Rutsch, P. (2015). Like Yelp For Labor Rights: This App Rates How Restaurants Treat Workers. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from npr.org.