Student Work

  • Transdisciplinary Design (MFA)

    Alix Gerber

    The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world – our prison population makes up almost 25% of all of the world’s prisoners. This is due largely to the criminalization of black neighborhoods through the War on Drugs beginning in the 1980s. Building on a long history, stemming from US slavery and Jim Crow laws, the structure of our criminal justice system has excluded African Americans from protection, working instead to disempower and criminalize individuals while ignoring the roots of larger societal issues. As we challenge this oppression, we must reconsider not just how our criminal justice system works, but how we define justice as a society.

    In line with the movement of the field of design towards transformation within a landscape of “wicked problems”, this thesis explores how designers can move from fulfilling user needs and crafting meaningful experiences towards challenging power structures and redefining mainstream society’s central values and beliefs. It asks, “What would a criminal justice system look like if it served rather than targeted underserved black neighborhoods?” Building on the important work already being done by practitioners in emerging fields of justice, the project uses speculative design to open space for new imagination and development of a different mindset around justice by youth who are impacted by the system.

    Framing incremental public service design and development through the lens of these new mindsets can help us progress towards fundamental change in the way our systems and services work, aligning them with the beliefs and values of those who are most impacted.