Interaction Design, Politics, and The Political: Three Approaches to Practice

Session Title

Interaction Design, Politics, and The Political: Three Approaches to Practice


Carl DiSalvo, Georgia Institute of Technology

Session Type: Presentation

There is a renewed interest in the intersection of design and politics, both from within the field of design and in popular culture at large. While much of this interest has focused on communication design (for example logos, posters, and ballots) , interaction design too has the potential to make significant contributions to the practice of politics and the political landscape.

In this presentation I will outline three approaches to practice at the intersection of interaction design and politics. Briefly described, these are:

1) Design for Politics: In which designers work to enable participation in the procedures of politics, usually by providing greater access to information for decision-making or enabling participation in activities such as voting and debate.

2) Political Design: In which the products and services designers create are ideologically motivated, and through which designers often attempt to explicitly advance a particular political perspective or agenda.

3) Designing Politically: In which the decisions a designer makes in the design process, ranging from the selection of projects/client, to the use of materials, to the modes of working are based upon political beliefs.

In describing each of these approaches, I will present examples of work and outline the kinds of activities, skills, and commitments each approach entails. The objective of the presentation is not to promote any one approach or another, but rather to outline the range of possibilities for interaction designers to actively contribute to the everyday practices of politics and political landscape of contemporary society.


Carl DiSalvo is a design researcher and educator. In 2006 he completed his Ph.D. in Design from Carnegie Mellon University. In 2006 he also co-founded DeepLocal, a software and design consultancy that provides information design and location-based services to advocacy, journalism and municipal organizations. Since 2007 he has been an assistant professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he established The Public Design Workshop to investigate the possible roles of technology and design in shaping and enabling public discourse and action.

One Comment

  1. Posted September 15, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Sounds like a great presentation!