(This piece is co-written with my student Samar Sabie. It also appears in the December 2020 issue of Computers and Society, vol. 49, no. 3.)

Sometimes to build something new you have to destroy what exists. We learned what should have been this obvious fact of existence through our collaboration with a group of middle school students that we enlisted in a civic design project. The students were nominally tasked with designing new spaces for inter-cultural communication and public reflection on the small island our university campus shares with a small residential community in the middle of one of the…


As Marx famously said, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” When we as HCI researchers seek to change the world, design is one of the key material practices that we are trying to impact. We impact material design practice in a number of ways. We create newly designed objects and techniques that can inspire and assist other designers in making new derivative or compound objects. We research new methodologies that can help designers navigate the knowledge gathering, relationship building and iterative development required for building principled and desirable end…


This is a story I wrote for a very early ICTD publication called iConnect launched by a World Bank funding program called InfoDev that was influential at the time. InfoDev was also a key supporter of the Knownet-GRIN project at SRISTI where I worked. Unfortunately it seems the original publication has gone offline so I’m putting it here for posterity.

Date of Publication: 4/15/2001

It was a cool, breezy evening in northern Maharashtra. As we sat scattered amongst the buildings encircling the village centre, our meeting was moving at full speed. Professor Gupta, had managed to power the operation by…


“It was empty”. I will never forget the mayor’s words as he talked about how NYC Health and Hospitals Coler facility was being converted to COVID-19 use. Coler is located next door to our apartment here in Roosevelt Island, and where some of my best friends live. …


If you are like me, your mind has been racing for the last few days, alternating between a somber realization of the grim toll the coronavirus crisis will take both personally and socially, and a newfound inspiration at the possibilities this creates politically, economically and technologically.

For the first time in a long time, the stark cleavages that could only be seen by theorists (and of course the marginalized themselves) are readily visible to anyone that cares to look. Who gets access to a Coronavirus test? When the time comes, who will get the ventilator? Who gets to stay, who…


The default model of knowledge production in academia is inherently extractive. We observe people, communities and phenomena, we learn something about them, we generalize and test the resulting theories, and then we share the results with other academics to advance our own careers. Even when we have “impact”, it is usually top-down. …


Artificial Intelligence is a ruse, a red herring, a canard, an elaborate diversion from more pressing and contested issues. It is used to justify decisions that have already been made, or that don’t matter. It is the modern version of manifest destiny, the white man’s burden or the 3/5 clause of the constitution — an excuse for the continuation of privilege, exploitation and dispossession of the weak, poor and marginalized. Ownership of people’s content and data, even that of dubious integrity and economic value, provides access to vast sums of capital to private (usually privileged white male) interests — used…


I read with great interest the recent set of recommendations by the ACM Future of Computing Academy (FCA) for mitigating (or, at least, articulating) the potential negative impacts of computing research on society. While I am very sure that those who framed this proposal only had the best of intentions, I think there are several dangerous aspects that must be considered before this recommendation becomes a standard in our community. …


Computing has always been a field laden with implicit values. Arguably the most fundamental of these is efficiency-which is hard-baked into some of the discipline’s most fundamental theories and insights. This includes efficiency in terms of both time-including the idea of computational complexity and the fundamental debate around P vs. NP, and space, in terms of optimizing the space requirements of an algorithm or data structure within a given level of complexity. …


In the last couple of years, I have found myself increasingly ambivalent about the value of research as a vocation. As Hannah Arendt famously said, the point of research is to understand. Clearly in domains like Physics, Biology, Chemistry and even in the social sciences and humanities there is a profound and deep significance to developing better, more accurate, more true accounts of how the world around us works. These models can help us better understand reality, our role in it, and to use that knowledge to make decisions and predict future outcomes.

However, when I think about some of…

Tapan Parikh

hegemon

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