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.

About Michelle Mailey Noben

I'm a graphic designer and graduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Stout in Menomonie, Wis. I'm in my second year of the School of Art + Design's Master of Fine Arts in Design program. So far, it's been a great experience, although challenging at times to come back to academia after working in the industry for several years. When I'm done with my studies, I'd like to teach at the adult level. I work for the University as Graduate Assistant in the University Library, where I work with the Public Relations committee on promoting library events. This year, I recently started in an office assistant position in the School of Art + Design's program office. I'm looking forward to becoming more comfortable with emerging media to make the most of this amazing technology. Thanks for reading!

Posted on November 9, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You make some good points in your post, Michelle. I found myself nodding along with your section on social media technology translating across different platforms. I also found your comment that “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,” intriguing, but would offer a different viewpoint.

    While I do agree that designers and writers should create with accessibility in mind, I would say it would have to be quantified by platform, usage and audience need. Also, great content can be truncated by poor placement, visibility or bad marketing. For example, I may put together a stellar blog post, but if it is not syndicated to the right audience at the right time in the right mode, it is ‘noise’. I agree that designers/writers should assume their work is now placed on a global platform, but should create with the goal of reaching as many of the right people as possible.

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