Our studio’s workshop with Caroline Sinders last week echoed one of the principles of the Feminist Internet: there is no Internet, only possible Internets. The way that see and expect our systems in the world to manifest is not the way they have to be. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk system, a system where workers are discouraged to unionize, remain nameless, and what the data contains is hidden, is not how a data collection system has to look like. Caroline proves that in the building of another possible system through her Feminist Data Set.
Design Researcher Caroline Sinders provided us with a framework of how subvert a techno-capitalist system to imagine new possibilities while situated as a human rights centered designer. The tool that lies at the crux of this framework sounds pretty mundane: research. The way that Caroline Sinders uses research, and the way she showed us it can be used, in is in reality, the least mundane thing in the world. When talking about her own work that resists structures like Mechanical Turk, Caroline referenced a legal case from 1976, acts within the new deal, and the work of countless contemporaries like Jenny Odell. In her practice she analyzes each step in the process of developing machine learning and asks is each step feminist, is it intersectional, does each step have bias and how can that bias be removed? Then she uses research to direct how the answers to those questions can constructed. To be able to reimagine with intention we need to look at the past to understand why systems exist as they do, and consider how else they could.
Do not imagine systems as they are, but allow research to point to what they can be.