The New School + #SXSW: Faculty and Alumni Share Perspectives on Technology for Social Good

Maya Wiley, Senior Vice President for Social Justice at The New School and a nationally recognized digital equity advocate, and Greta Byrum, who co-directs the Digital Equity Lab with Wiley, shared their perspectives in a talk, Race and Digital Sanctuary in 2018 America at #SXSW.
Julia Gorton, BFA Communication Design ’80 in From CBGB to the World: A Downtown Diaspora
Left: New School faculty members and alumni talked design and technology for social change at Make A Dent In Changing The World For The Better: Happy Hour with The New School at #SXSW; Right: Nora Rahimian, MA International Affairs ’12, at Make A Dent In Changing The World For The Better: Happy Hour with The New School at #SXSW.
From left to right: Peter Asaro, Associate Professor of Media Studies at the School of Media Studies, discusses A.I. and ethics; Ed Keller, Associate Professor of Media Studies and Associate Professor of Design Strategies and Director of the Center for Transformative Media, discusses leveraging A.I. to design equitable future states; Eiko Ikegami, Walter A Eberstadt Professor of Sociology at The New School for Social Research, discusses researching adults with autism in the virtual world of Second Life—all at XPRIZE Futurecasting Workshop at SXSW.

The exuberance for new design and technology has been a dominant feature of #SXSW, with thousands of badge-wielding attendees lining up to see the latest innovations in artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and gaming at the annual conference in Austin, Texas.

But the enthusiasm has dimmed this year as the downsides of technology — including the failure of social media to deal with the damaging effects of fake news and the dangers of artificial intelligence — have raised concerns about the industry’s prospects.

At #SXSW, The New School — a progressive university committed to confronting real-world problems through design — emerged as a leading voice on this issue. In presentations and workshops throughout the conference, faculty members and alumni called for a critical examination of the ethics informing the design and implementation of new technologies. They argued that by applying a human-centered lens to the latest innovations, we can better people’s lives and build a better future.

New School thought leaders on ethics and technology included Maya Wiley, Senior Vice President for Social Justice, who spoke on the need for digital sanctuary and the expansion of broadband access for low-income communities of color; New School faculty members Eiko Ikegami, Peter Asaro, and Ed Keller, who explored ways that artificial intelligence can be used for social good during a workshop with XPRIZE; Open Style Lab, a Parsons School of Design-housed organization that presented technology-based wearable solutions for people of all abilities; and a Parsons faculty-alum team that showcased a project — a portable shelter for Syrian refugees — that was named an honorary winner of the SXSW EDU Learn by Design competition.

Despite the skepticism surrounding new technology, it’s not intrinsically harmful, faculty and alumni argued. It’s up to humans to decide how it’s used.

New School Alumni who presented at SXSW 2018:

Joelle Firzli, MA Fashion Studies ‘16
Design for Impact Meet Up

Grace Jun, MFA Design and Technology ‘16
Style for All: Universal Designed Clothing

Palika Makaa, MA International Affairs ‘13
Citizen Journalists & Activists Meet Up

Kristen Naiman, BA Liberal Arts ‘04
Brand Storytelling in the Digital Age

Debra Eisenstadt, MA Media Studies ‘01
​The (R)Evolution of Non-Fiction Aesthetics with Brett Morgen

Alexis Lloyd, MFA Design and Technology ‘07
Shredding the Newspaper

Myrriah Gossett, MS Media Management ‘17
Being Seen: Talking Identity Politics Meet Up

Nora Rahimian, MA International Affairs ‘12
Naming & Faming! Understanding Positive Solutions

Julie Whang, MS Nonprofit Management ‘01
An Asian American Lens on Diversity in Film

Leah Schrager, MFA Fine Arts ‘15
#NSFW: Feminist Artists on Sex & Digital Identity

Greg Rhem, MA Media Studies ‘10
Mentor Session

Samuel Snider-Held, MFA Design and Technology ‘13
By Design at Ignite® SXSW

Caitlin Pickall, MFA Design and Technology ‘17
Feast of Resistance & Secrets: SXSW Artists in Dialogue

Maryellis Bunn, BBA Strategic Design & Management ‘14
Sit-In + We All Scream For Ice Cream: Building A Movement

Savannah Enright, BBA Strategic Design & Management ‘07
Impact & Work at Ignite® SXSW

Adriana Kertzer, MA Hist of Dec Arts & Design ‘13
Music Urbanism: What Does It Mean?

Bryan Collinsworth, MFA Design and Technology ‘16
Aeronaut

Morgan Gildersleeve, BFA Illustration ’16, of Morgan Saint
Sofia Colvin, BFA Photography ’16, Morgan Saint photographer

Performance sponsored by Sony Stage

Tomas Uribe, MA Media Management ’15
The Latin American Tastemaker: Tech and Culture

Julia Gorton, BFA Communication Design ’80
From CBGB to the World: A Downtown Diaspora

Maria Pombo, AAS Fashion Design ’13
Fragmentario at Wellness Expo

Melissa Steinmetz, MA International Affairs ’05
Australia House Presented By G’Day USA

Katherine Montague, BBA Strategic Design & Management ’05
The Google Assistant Fun House

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