The UnBook Club: a club for everyone

In the summer of 2020, the C-SED team saw a need to create more virtual community spaces and opportunities for folks to learn more about and discuss the inequities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. The result? A virtual book club inviting faculty, staff, students, and community members alike to join in reading one chapter of Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes by Kat Holmes Design each week.

By providing a space to safely fail and celebrate success in their learning, readers developed a deeper understanding of other people’s lived experiences and how social identities shape both opportunity and oppression. Since then, C-SED has offered an annual book club providing discussion opportunities regarding the intersection of design and equity. In 2021, readers enjoyed All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, & Solutions for Climate Change by A. Johnson & K. Wilkinson. In 2022, the book Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need by Sasha Costanza-Chock was chosen. 

This year, our team was interested in redesigning our approach to book club to make the experience more inclusive and accessible to everyone from self-declared bookworms to bibliophobes. Born out of a desire to bring people together around a particular issue/topic without having participants feeling like the experience was ‘all or nothing’, the UnBook Club  centered around a weekly list of curated mixed media. By including a variety of shorter bodies of work, including podcast episodes, videos, and news articles, participants could engage in the material at their own pace. 

From race to immigration status, a total of seven identities were explored through the lens of design – specifically, how systems that were designed to serve others ended up doing the exact opposite. Check out this year’s reading schedule:

Week 1: Design & Race

  • 📝  New York Times Article, “Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm”: In what may be the first known case of its kind, a faulty facial recognition match led to a Michigan man’s arrest for a crime he did not commit.
  • 🔊 99% Invisible Podcast, Episode 469 “The Epic of Collier Heights”: A look into Collier Heights an Atlanta neighborhood once described as one of just a few “verdant neighborhoods that are the true pride and joy of the city’s Black citizenry” in the height of redlining and racial zoning.
  • 📝  New York Times Article, “The Racial Bias Built Into Photography”: A review of the unconscious bias that was built into photography that, by categorizing light skin as the norm and other skin tones as needing special corrective care, has altered how we interact with each other without us realizing it.
  • 🔊 NPR’s Code Switch Podcast. April 12, 2023: “WTF does race have to do with taxes?”: It turns out that your race plays a big role in whether or not you get audited and a lot more about your taxes, like how much you might owe the IRS, which tax breaks you can get, and even which benefits you can claim.
  • 📝 Black Feminism Article, “The Matrix of Domination and Four Domains of Power”: An introduction to the four interrelated domains of power as sociologist Patricia Hill Collins coined in her book Black Feminist Thought

Week 2: Design & (Dis)ability

Week 3: Design & Gender

Week 4: Design & Body Type/Size 

  • 📝 BuzzFeed.News Article, “Fat People Usually Have To Buy A Second Plane Seat. That Has To Change.”: A jarring look into the thin privilege and fat-phobia that plagues the travel industry creating a bizarre dynamic: one in which the fate of fat passengers rests with the discomfort and bias of whoever happens to sit next to us.
  • 🔊 Work Appropriate Podcast. Dec. 21, 2022 episode, “When diet culture comes to work with Virginia Sole-Smith”: An insightful discussion about how the work place is not immune to diet culture and body talk.
  • 🔊  Maintenance Phase Podcast. Aug. 17, 2021 episode, “The obesity epidemic”: Over the last 30 years, fatness has been defined as a risk factor for disease, then a disease in itself, then a global epidemic. What caused this rapid shift?

Week 5: Design & Socio Economic Status

Week 6: Design & Immigration Status

Week 7: Design & Immigration Status

Week 8: The Intersectionality of Design 

If you are interested in joining C-SED’s next UnBook Club or similar programming, subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay in the loop!

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