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Sasha Costanza-Chock joins the Media Lab and Department of Urban Studies + Planning

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Sasha Costanza-Chock

Sasha Costanza-Chock

by Chia Evers

July 17, 2020

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Sasha Costanza-Chock, a designer and media scholar, has accepted a joint appointment as a Research Scientist with the Media Lab and Department of Urban Studies + Planning (DUSP), effective July 1. 

Costanza-Chock (who is transgender and uses they/them or she/her pronouns) has been a member of both the Media Lab and DUSP communities for many years, as a co-PI in the Center for Civic Media, and as an affiliate with both the Community Innovator's Lab and the new Data + Feminism Lab led by Media Lab alum Catherine D'Ignazio. They are known for their work on networked social movements, transformative media organizing, and design justice, a way of connecting design—of interfaces, applications, objects, the built environment, systems—to ongoing struggles for collective liberation and ecological survival. Their most recent book, Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need, was published by the MIT Press in March and has been making waves across multiple fields. 

Tod Machover, Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media, head of the Opera of the Future research group, and academic head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, says: “We are thrilled to have Sasha Costanza-Chock join us this year at the Media Lab and in MAS, bringing their unique combination of scholarship, media design, and activism to a variety of research, teaching, and mentorship activities. I know that our community will benefit greatly from Sasha’s bracing vision for creating technologies that enhance equity and promote community.”

Chris Zegras, Professor of Mobility and Urban Planning and head of DUSP, says: “We are excited to have Sasha formally be part of the DUSP community this year, where they have long been active. Not only does their work complement so well what DUSP does, but Sasha’s joint appointment with Media Lab will allow us to strengthen existing, and build new, collaborative bridges.”

In addition to their work at MIT, Costanza-Chock is a Senior Research Fellow at the Algorithmic Justice League and a Faculty Affiliate with the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, as well as a board member of Allied Media Projects and a member of the Steering Committee of the Design Justice Network.


At 2pm ET on August 12, Costanza-Chock will present key insights from Design Justice, followed by a dialogue with Catherine d’Ignazio and Jaleesa Trapp, a PhD student in the Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group, and audience Q+A. Attendees are encouraged to read the Introduction to the book beforehand, which is available for free at design-justice.pubpub.org

In the book, Costanza-Chock notes that design justice is a framework whose core concepts have emerged from a growing community of designers in various fields working closely with social movements and community-based organizations around the world. It focuses explicitly on the ways that design distributes benefits and burdens between various groups of people, reproducing and/or challenging the matrix of domination (white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, settler colonialism, and other forms of structural inequality). 

Costanza-Chock documents and builds upon the theory and practice of this community, demonstrating how universalist design principles and practices erase certain groups of people—in particular, those who are intersectionally disadvantaged or multiply burdened under what Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins calls the matrix of domination. 

The book is not only critique, Costanza-Chock says; it's really an invitation to “build a better world, a world where many worlds fit; linked worlds of collective liberation and ecological sustainability.” 

More information about this free public talk, discussion, and Q+A is coming soon.

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