Inclusive Design for Social Media Tools
I was interested in the global aspect of Longo’s article and colloquium and the desire to bring the cultural implications of the internet and social networking to the fore. It was important to me that the needs and considerations of the globally disenfranchised were so strongly considered. Truthfully, I find myself often forgetting that so much of the world is generally without the networked capabilities I take for granted.
Longo had a point that spoke to me especially as a designer interested in the best communication practices between all types of people, across cultures:
However, as we embrace and use these tools to open communication and design processes, we need to look at cultural assumptions underpinning the design of these tools and how we envision people using them. Through this mutual analysis of our audience, our tools, and ourselves, we are able to devise technology design and diffusion practices that profoundly include the perspectives and feedback of people whose lives are affected by those technologies. (pg. 26)
Especially in a hyper-connected world where the latest designed artifacts are largely of the digital, interactive variety, there are incredible opportunities to design interaction in the most inclusive and universal ways possible. Designers and writers today should assume that their works can be accessed and used by people in widely differing cultures and create with the goal to successfully reach as many people as possible. This is such a challenging aspect of design today. It is challenging to design for the entire range of participants in our own culture, much less cultures we are wholly unfamiliar with. The desire to create universal works needs to be accompanied by a drive for intense research and an abstract way of thinking that can allow the creator to place themselves in another’s shoes. It is a balancing act between clearly communicated content and accessible design.
Think about your own favorite social media technology, and think of yourself as someone from the Global South. How does the technology translate? Is the technology primarily word-based? This clearly creates limitations. Maybe there’s extensive use of icons, some of which have come to represent technology in a universal way (think of a “settings” icon, often represented by a gear shape, or a “location” or “GPS” icon, wholly derived from graphic interface of the technology itself). Some social media tools are very minimal in prompts design, relying on swipes and taps to function.
As we begin to collaborate and seek feedback from across cultures and continents, we may find ourselves thinking in terms of the most basic forms of communications. The universal solution might rely on a design of simplicity to facilitate and negotiate the complexity of the inner workings.