Who Gets to Future? Race, Representation, and Design Methods in Africatown

Picture of potted plants and a bench with the word Africatown in the background, painted in bright red and green colors

Picture of potted plants and a bench with the word Africatown in the background, painted in bright red and green colors

Who Gets to Future? Race, Representation, and Design Methods in Africatown

Jasper Tran O’Leary, Sara Zewde, Jennifer Mankoff , Daniela K. Rosner
CHI 2019

This paper draws on a collaborative project called the Africatown Activation to examine the role design practices play in contributing to (or conspiring against) the flourishing of the Black community in Seattle, Washington. Specifically, we describe the efforts of a community group called Africatown to design and build an installation that counters decades of disinvestment and ongoing displacement in the historically Black Central Area neighborhood. Our analysis suggests that despite efforts to include community, conventional design practices may perpetuate forms of institutional racism: enabling activities of community engagement that may further legitimate racialized forms of displacement. We discuss how focusing on amplifying the legacies of imagination already at work may help us move beyond a simple reading of design as the solution to systemic forms of oppression.

Understanding gender equity in author order assignment

Academic success and promotion are heavily influenced by publication record. In many fields, including computer science, multi-author papers are the norm. Evidence from other fields shows that norms for ordering author names can influence the assignment of credit. We interviewed 38 students and faculty in human- computer interaction (HCI) and machine learning (ML) at two institutions to determine factors related to assignment of author order in collaborative publication in the field of computer science. We found that women were concerned with author order earlier in the process:

Our female interviews reported raising author order in discussion earlier in the process than men.

Interview outcomes informed metrics for our bibliometric analysis of gender and collaboration in papers published between 1996 and 2016 in three top HCI and ML conferences. We found expected results overall — being the most junior author increased the likelihood of first authorship, while being the most senior author increased the likelihood of last authorship. However, these effects disappeared or even reversed for women authors:

Comparison of regression weights for author rank (blue) with author rank crossed with gender (orange). Regression was predicting author position (first, middle, last)

Based on our findings, we make recommendations for assignment of credit in multi-author papers and interpretation of author order, particularly with respect to how these factors affect women.