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ucsd design lab judith donath harvard berkman faculty fellow

Judith Donath

October 27, 2014
Atkinson Hall 1601 on the UCSD Campus



Designer Framings

Is leaving the dinner table to care for a virtual pet an act of nurturance or rudeness? Should a person be able to remove regrettable material from their data history? Is it a violation of privacy to reveal – or to hide — who the readers of a document are? The answers to these questions depend on the conceptual frames through which one perceives them: e.g., whether the virtual pet is perceived to be a game or an animal, the data history a factual record or managed impression. When these frames are ambiguous misunderstandings arise – about the workings of an application, the intentions of another person, or the ethical way to behave. In this talk I will show how conceptual frames shape our interpretation of the world around us and examine the role of design in making this framework legible.   


Judith Donath synthesizes knowledge from urban design, evolutionary biology and cognitive science to design innovative interfaces for on-line communities and virtual identities. A Harvard Berkman Faculty Fellow and formerly director of the MIT Media Lab’s Sociable Media Group, she is known internationally for her writing on identity, interface design, and social communication. She is the creator of many pioneering online social applications; her work and that of the Sociable Media Group have been shown in museums and galleries worldwide. She is the author of The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online (MIT Press, 2014). Her current research focuses on how we signal identity in both mediated and face-to-face interactions, and she is working on a book about how the economics of honesty shape our world. She received her doctoral and master’s degrees in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT and her bachelor’s degree in History from Yale University.

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