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Reveling in a complex, unknowable future

MIT Media Lab and MIT Press announce winners of the Journal of Design and Science essay competition.
Ten winning essays cover a range of disciplines and perspectives, from design and tech, to health and gender, to AI and morality.
Ten winning essays cover a range of disciplines and perspectives, from design and tech, to health and gender, to AI and morality.
Image: Nick Philip

The inaugural Journal of Design and Science (JoDS) essay competition recently concluded with the announcement of 10 winners. Answering the call to create works in conversation with Media Lab Director Joi Ito’s manifesto “Resisting Reduction” and the articles on this theme published in the third issue of JoDS, the authors of the winning essays addressed topics including gender and power in the age of AI, the contributions social workers can make to data-based systems, and the fluid boundaries of non-communicable disease, among others.

Ito and MIT Press Director Amy Brand conceived of the competition as a way to support the free exchange of ideas, and more than 260 entrants answered the open call for submissions. Following a double-blind review and selection process, the judges decided to grant the maximum number of available prizes. Each winning essay entitles its authors to a $10,000 award funded by the Media Lab and the MIT Press Innovations Fund, which supports open access and experimental publishing projects.

"One of our primary goals with JoDS is to invite interaction between the sometimes siloed academic disciplines as well as those public intellectuals who don’t fit in a discipline," said Ito. "This contest was part of a larger effort to experiment with open access and open discourse in scholarly communication, and I'm very excited about the level of informed ideas and the delightful diversity the contest winners have brought to the conversation."

The 10 winning pieces are now published on the JoDS website under a Creative Commons license. In the coming months, they will go through further peer review and revision, and will finally be collected in an MIT Press book to be published in 2019. Proceeds from the sale of this volume will support open access publishing at the Institute.

“We are encouraged by the response to the competition and the range of perspectives that the entrants brought to bear in exploring the theme of Resisting Reduction across industries and schools of thought,” said Brand. “JoDS aims to bridge gaps between disciplines, and the winning essays will expand the conversations already taking place in the journal by generating further discussion and exchange.”

A joint venture of the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Press, the Journal of Design and Science is hosted on PubPub, an open-access, open-review, rapid-publication platform that invites lively discussions, unconventional formats, and widespread participation among members of many different communities. Readers are now able to enjoy and interact with the 10 winning essays:

  • The Wicked Queen’s Smart Mirror” by Snoweria Zhang. Zhang is currently a research fellow at the MIT Senseable City Lab.

  • Making Kin with the Machines” by Jason Edward Lewis, Noelani Arista, Archer Pechawis, and Suzanne Kite. Arista is assistant professor of Hawaiian and U.S. history at University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa. Pechawis is a practicing artist with particular interest in the intersection of Plains Cree culture and digital technology. Kite — an Oglala Lakota performance artist, visual artist, and composeris currently a PhD student at Concordia University.

  • Systems Seduction: The Aesthetics of Decentralization” by Gary Zhexi Zhang. Zhang is currently a graduate student in the Program in Art, Culture, and Technology at MIT.

  • Design Justice, AI, and Escape from the Matrix of Domination” by Sasha Costanza-Chock. Costanza-Chock is a scholar, activist, and media-maker who is currently associate professor of civic media at MIT.

  • Systems Justice” by Vafa Ghazavi. Ghazavi is a John Monash Scholar and doctoral student at the University of Oxford.

  • Myth and the Making of AI” by Kat Holmes and Molly McCue. Holmes is founder of Kata and, complimentary ventures for advancing inclusion in product development and digital experiences. McCue is a writer, musician, and founder of a non-profit that helps artists and churches create together in new ways.

  • How to Become a Centaur” by Nicky Case. Case makes “explorable explanations” — games designed to explain complex issues, including The Evolution of Trust, Parable of the Polygons, A Better Ballot, and Fireflies.

  • What Social Work Got Right and Why it is Needed for our [Technology] Evolution” by Jaclyn Sawyer. Sawyer currently serves as the director of data services at Breaking Ground, a non-profit organization that provides homeless street outreach and housing opportunity.

  • Resisting Reduction: The Fluid Boundaries of Non-Communicable Disease” by Cathryn Klusmeier. Klusmeier graduated with distinction from the University of Oxford in 2018 with a master’s degree in medical anthropology and currently lives in Sitka, Alaska, working as a commercial salmon fisherwoman and writer.

  • The Truth Will Set Us Free: A Paradigm to End Reductionism According to Girls” by Heidi Therese Dangelmaier. Dangelmaier is an inventor, designer, scientist and founder of the growth and innovation firm, Girlapproved.

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