making is a political act

making, is a political act. not making, is one too.1

i encounter several (students and) designers today, who wish to be apolitical, neutral, agnostic, ambivalent or practical.2

your work3 can not be separated from politics. if you refuse to take a stance, you’re complicit4. your stance may not be overt, but, you can’t not have one.

politics doesn’t necessarily have to be about governance and patriotism. politics is also about dark patterns5 in experience design. politics is about working for an oil company or facebook6 or uber for “just a few years till i can save enough money, quit, and then do all the things i really want to”. politics is about refusing a project on skin-fairness creams ; or, at-least, about doing the project—like a consummate professional would—and then politely sharing your discomfort with your manager. politics is about recognising that, indirectly, your continued use of whatsapp (“work demands it”) and instagram (“i only look at it casually, in my free time”) is contributing to the depression, anxiety and suicidal-thoughts your friend is experiencing. politics is about taking the extra half-hour out of your life to go buy groceries from a kinārā-shop, instead of ordering it off an app.

  1. read kyle gann’s commentary on john cage’s 4’33” in ‘no such thing as silence’. 

  2. social cooling is as damaging to human society as global warming is to the environment. as we grow more connected, we’re growing less adventurous, creative, free, obtuse, human.” (i’d written this during the great lockdown of 2020–21.) 

  3. this includes, especially, the work of teachers. teaching and learning are political acts too. 

  4. i read this at the topography of terrors in berlin in 2018. 

  5. read mark hurst’s 2021 essay on why he’s losing faith in ux, and the subsequent hackernews thread discussing dark patterns in ux design

  6. see: facebook’s broken promises, by the tech transparency project (2021/22).