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Adversarial Design and Social Impact


A new course offered this year, INFO 4240: Designing Technologies for Social Impact has quickly won a spot in my top five favorite classes at Cornell University. Among the long list of reasons to love this course, I am most swayed by the ability to work in and lead project teams on a weekly basis, utilize creative and visual thinking, and that the course is created and taught by Phoebe Sengers.

Professor Pheobe Sengers is amazing both due to her accessible nature and her prolific career in the field of computer science – specifically human computer interaction and the way in which technology and culture influence each other. Full disclosure, I loved learning from Professor Sengers so much that I requested she act as my advisor – a request to which she fortunately agreed.

The structure of the class is one heavily based on projects with ample readings, which, in turn, inform the projects. Individual and group work are presented with level importance, allowing students to really find how to best apply their skills as well as discovering personal strengths and weaknesses.

Based on the evolution of my written thought processes and designs, it is evident that I transformed immensely throughout the semester – particularly in terms of adversarial design and creative thinking on a larger scale. Additionally, I  leave the class now with an appreciation for design with culture impact and sustainability in mind – considerations that, without the aid of INFO 4240, may have taken years for me to develop within my work.

Below are some samples of my sketches and projects created over the semester.

Initial ideas for creating a way for those connected to a university or company internet network to monitor their level of time misused vs. time spent productively while online. 

Initial_sketch3_MiniProject2         Initial_sketches_MiniProject2

Below, a mock-up screen showing a potential browser extension that would offer insight into better uses of one’s time, analytics on the amount of content viewed that can be considered unproductive, and overall “life wasted.” As seen by the gauge (#3) and the bandwidth allotment (#4), the tool would throttle internet speeds for sites deemed unproductive while allowing for full bandwidth of productive pages such as news, academic, research, etc.

Mini Project 2 UI

The end goal is to inform the user of their internet habits and allow a university or office to control bandwidth used in a way that is less abrasive than a firewall and also better at allowing for alterations in the user’s behavior.