How to interview a tech company

Two things, or news, from within the design world made me happy today.

First, design scholar and activist Sasha Costanza-Chock’s (of whose paper on the principles of design justice I wrote about here) new book, Design Justice has just been newly released! I have always been a fan of Sasha’s work that focuses on design as the larger struggles for collective liberation — where it serves beyond the recent calls for design for good, user-centered design, and employment diversity in the technology and design industry. I am very excited to read this new book of hers.

Second, I have also been interested for the longest time in how our multitudinous of backgrounds could enhance and improve in how we approach our work and research. This is why I am very fond of working within a multidisciplinary team — more so beyond our variety of professional professions, but also especially if the team is comprised of different ethnicities, nationalities, hence cultural backgrounds, which would make the experience working together in a group more enriching as we could learn from each other. I am also especially interested in how one’s previous profession, which was traditionally in no way related to their current one, could inform their current work and research. This was what the interview with Sareeta Amrute, Director of Research at Data & Society and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington was all about, as she tries to answer this question: What can those of us who work in, and maybe even love, computing cultures do about computing’s colonial expansions? She mentioned in a question about how her perspective as an anthropologist and ethnographer informs her research approach, “…researchers need to follow their findings rather than fitting into existing frames, and the most robust findings come from engaging with technological systems in practice.” She also asserts that there is more than technical skills, “These other (than technical) skills will help us both find the agency that often exists at the peripheries of existing systems and to surface solutions that will certainly come the more we are able to look beyond the confines of the organisations that employ us,” and that we need to always be learning, “We learn what our project demands as well as we can, with full awareness that this knowledge is incomplete.” I am really interested in her / Foucault’s idea of counterconduct — the agency that people, communities, and companies have to build alternatives to the colonial attributes in tech industry. And I love that she mentions all of the contemporary women and/or POC scholars of the sociocomputing field (check out works cited at the end of the interview) — Ruha Benjamin, Safiya Noble, Sarah Roberts, Marie Hicks, Charlton McIllwain, Anita Say Chan, Wendy Chun, Lisa Nakamura, Virginia Eubanks, and Beth Coleman.

On the personal front, this is among the weeks where writing felt difficult. There is just no groove. I was directed to Jack Cheng’s newsletter post where he wrote about the distinction between ruts and full-on block, as he reread Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit:

A rut is not writer’s block (or any other creative block). When you’re in a rut, at least you know your motor is running. Writer’s block means your engine has shut down and the tank is empty. Being blocked is most often a failure of nerve, with only one solution: Do something—anything.

He wrote in his notes: RUTS ARE FORMER GROOVES. I guess I am just slightly tired and lacking groove at the moment.

Currently in my tabs:

  • How to interview a tech company: A guide for students. This is an excellent list of questions to ask by anyone, not just students, to tech companies that they are interviewing at — addressing issues about ethics and equity in the industry. Some of the questions are US-centric, so please adapt accordingly.
  • On February 2, the World Health Organization dubbed the new coronavirus “a massive ‘infodemic,’” referring to ”an overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”
  • “There should therefore be a time in adult life devoted to revisiting the most important books of our youth. Even if the books have remained the same (though they do change, in the light of an altered historical perspective), we have most certainly changed, and our encounter will be an entirely new thing.” Why read the classics.
  • “To look closely over someone’s hands, to open the palm, observe the fingers, follow the veins and examine the creases and folds, is to gain a powerful sense of the living newness and exoticism of their life.” On studying someone else’s hands.
  • A prayer for new freelancers.

STATUS BOARD

  • Reading: Still Louis de Bernieres’ Birds Without Wings.
  • Viewing: Back to watching La Casa de Papel, Season 3.
  • Listening: Disco Jazz by Rupa, of which described in Flow State, “There’s Bollywood, there’s Western Funk, and there’s what the excellent Pitchfork deep dive describes as “[what] would now be considered Balearic beat music, with its expansive and hypnotic musical interludes.””
  • Food & Drink: Made sweet and sour shrimp dish using this recipe.

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