Does the whiteness of progressivism exclude Black people?

On April 19, 2021, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of 2nd degree murder, 3rd degree murder, and manslaughter. It begins to offer justice for George Floyd’s murder. The wicked problem of white progressivism and liberalism is as pervasive as ever.

I began writing “Wicked Liberalism” in 2015, when Tony Robinson, an unarmed 19 year-old biracial man was shot on Williamson Street in Madison, Wisconsin, two blocks from my house. I published it after Philando Castile, a cafeteria manager at the grade school I attended, was murdered on July 6, 2016 during a traffic stop. …


Photo by Rodolfo Cuadros on Unsplash

Carnegie Mellon University, School of Design, Prof. Molly Wright Steenson, Spring 2020

There’s so much talk about AI. It’s all over pop culture, whether in tv, film, books, sci-fi, music, games, and internet memes. Yet the term “artificial intelligence” has been in use since 1955 and “robot” since 1920. It begs the question: how do we use popular culture to bring AI and ideas about computers and intelligence to life?

In this class, we’ll survey the pop culture of AI and smartness, read texts and articles to help us theorize it, bring in a variety of experts and visitors to ground our knowledge, and generate our own creative responses. …


Please go away and never come back

Photo: Paula Winkler/Getty Images

Dear Hot Flashes,

I was about to give a talk to 1,500 people at a conference. And then, there you were. You showed up and you didn’t mess around. You heated me up. And you didn’t stop. You kept at it, all right. You kept at it 17 to 20 times a day.

Hot flashes, you don’t care what I’m doing when you hit. When I’m teaching, I have to throw off my sweater, only to put it back on three minutes later, and a cashmere scarf too because I’m suddenly freezing. Who knows what my students think. …


Professor Molly Wright Steenson | Carnegie Mellon University School of Design

It’s not a class about penguin societies. But it makes you wonder what a society of AI penguins might be like. Nice picture, in any case. Photo by Jesse Chan/Unsplash

How does AI impact society?

How do artificial intelligence and algorithmic technologies impact society? In this class, we will will look at how AI and its related paradigms affect the way that we live. In this seven-week class, we’ll be reading, writing, watching, sharing, creating, debating, talking with experts, and more. We’ll explore a number of questions, such as: How do we understand intelligence? How does it impact labor and how we work? How is AI biased and how might it become more fair? Do we trust it? And what ethical considerations should we be taking?

The class will culminate by holding a fictitious future…


How a tight-knit group of elites shaped the Media Lab

Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

This is a story about courting money from power. It’s about how the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab was founded and funded, by whom, and how. It’s a story about Nicholas Negroponte before it was about Joi Ito and Jeffrey Epstein. And most of all, it’s a story about gall.

Last week, at a town hall meeting that was intended to reorient the Media Lab in the wake of revelations about convicted sex offender Epstein’s donations and investments, Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the Media Lab, stood up to speak about “his privilege as a ‘rich white man’ and how…


From Lucas Benjamin, Unsplash

Seminar One (51–701) | School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University | Professor Molly Wright Steenson, PhD | TA, Hajira Qazi

The context and impact of (interaction) design

“Digital design cannot operate outside its social context because files, systems and media only gain meaning as part of a community’s practice.”
—Arturo Escobar, Designs for the Pluriverse, p. 41

Design is everywhere, and everyone knows it. But if that’s the case, then what’s the role of the designer? Where does the designer play, and how does the designer lead? Designers make a greater impact than ever before — making it more important than ever to understand the contexts in which we apply our work.

With that in mind, we’re going to ask some fundamental questions in different contexts. What…


We do. By Brandi Ibrao

Carnegie Mellon School of Design, Spring 2019

Professor Molly Wright Steenson & TA Ulu Mills

We all have an idea of what a good service is — when everything clicks into place, when you feel a little surprised and delighted because of the thoughtfulness and smoothness. And we know too well what it’s like when a service goes wrong: unempowered agents at the airport when your flight was canceled, waiting forever at the doctor’s office, a website or app being inappropriate or tone deaf in a sensitive situation. Services connect us to our cities and get us acquainted in new places.

But how are services made? This is where service design comes in. Through in-class…


Residenziale Est in Ivrea, Italy—also known as the Typewriter Building, 1971 by Iginio Cappai & Pietro Mainardis. Ivrea was the headquarters of Olivetti, and the location of the former Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. The building is marred these days with graffiti, sadly, but the interiors are modular and fascinating. Perhaps this is a smart building in a smart town of a different sort of age. Or a contemporary age: the Arduino board was invented here. Via “Moderno Vivo” in L’Architetto.

Carnegie Mellon School of Design, Prof. Molly Wright Steenson, Fall 2018 (second mini)

We’ve long heard a lot about smart: smart homes, smart cities, smart grids, and more. It’s blowing up even more, with a lot of talk about AI these days. It’s all over pop culture, whether in tv, film, books, sci-fi, music, games, and internet memes. What might we learn from looking at the pop culture of AI where it intersects with the world around us—in our buildings, cities, infrastructures and beyond? In this class, we’ll survey the pop culture of AI and smartness, read texts and articles to help us theorize it, bring in a variety of experts and visitors…


Carnegie Mellon School of Design, Prof. Molly Wright Steenson, Fall 2018

There’s a lot of talk about AI these days. It’s all over pop culture, whether in tv, film, books, sci-fi, music, games, and internet memes. Yet the term “artificial intelligence” has been in use since 1955 and “robot” since 1920. What might we learn from looking at the pop culture of AI where it intersects with bodies and cyborgs? In this class, we’ll do survey the pop culture of AI, read texts and articles to help us theorize it, bring in AI & robotics experts to ground our knowledge, and generate our own creative responses. If we do it right…


This is an Arduino Uno via Unsplash. Little known fact: the Arduino got its name from a little cafe/bar in Ivrea, Italy where its founders went for aperitivo (happy hour).

Seminar One (51–701) | School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University | Professor Molly Wright Steenson, PhD

Tools to Think With*

What is interaction, what is design, where did these notions come from, and where are they going? This seminar aims to give us tools to think with* (the with on the end is a dangling preposition, I realize) in the form of readings, discussions and activities. Through this grounding, you will return to questions of what kind of designer you are and wish to be, what you believe in, and how that will extend to your research and practice. …

Molly Wright Steenson

K&L Gates Associate Professor of Ethics & Computational Technologies @ CMU/School of Design. Author of Architectural Intelligence (MIT Press 2017).

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