Individuals across a multitude of political identities have expressed desire to hold conversations that expose them to opposing viewpoints, but they do not know how or whom to engage. The app Union brings socially and politically separated people to the same table—or rather, it brings the table to them. Created by recent graduate Hannah Rudin as part of her thesis, Teambuilding America: A Declaration of Interdependence, the app connects people with differing political views, and facilitates their interaction through a fifteen-minute video call.
Antya Waegemann’s thesis, When No One Believes You: Redesigning the Rape Kit and Responses to Sexual Assault, proposes six different design interventions for sexual assault victims, nurses and the police, to increase report rates, improve the experience of getting a rape kit, and increase rape kit testing, as well as to reduce stigma and shame around sexual assault and increase accountability.
As an avid climber and hiker, Alexia Cohen found herself interested in examining the role of women in the great outdoors. When she started climbing three years ago, she attended an event organized by Flash Foxy—a group of women dedicated to celebrating and empowering women climbers. Through this event, she met her climbing partner Janice, who as Alexia recalls “quickly became a friend and a mentor. Her guidance and support helped me develop my climbing technique and become more comfortable in this new space.” She also began to understand the importance of community and women mentors in traditionally male-dominated spaces.
After becoming interested in the growing phenomenon of non-monogamous relationships, Yangying developed her thesis, MONO/POLY: Designing for a Post-Marriage Society, to create services, experiences, and educational games that speak to polyamorous partnerships and envision a society where monogamy is no longer the default ordering principle of society.
Through her thesis, Queer China: Diminishing the Tension Between Chinese Queer Youth and Their Family, Xuan set out to design interventions that bring comfort, provide support, and facilitate both personal and political conversations for Chinese Queer Youth and their families.
Carly Simmons’s thesis, The Mother Load: Owning Motherhood and Offloading Burden, aims to redistribute the burden and responsibility typically held by women and mothers to other individuals in their social network. In her research, Carly engaged with over two dozen new mothers who expressed feeling an absence of community support during and after pregnancy.
As it does in the physical world, violence against others occurs in VR spaces. While designers may not be able to expunge this from human nature, Phuong Anh Nguyen believes that we can design tools for victims to gain agency over their harasser. Through her thesis Power Play: Designing for Agency and Empathy in Virtual Environments, she aims to introduce empathy-building products and experiences to shape respectful behaviors in current and future virtual environments.
Evie Cheung’s thesis, Alexa, Help Me Be A Better Human: Redesigning Conversational Artificial Intelligence for Emotional Connection, interrogates the status quo of the artificial intelligence (AI) space, and suggests pathways to use intersectional thinking to imagine new applications for the technology. Her thesis intends to help people connect with themselves and with other humans, through interventions that use conversational AI and natural language processing.
For his thesis, Small But Certain Happiness: Finding Fulfillment in a Low Desire Society, Runshi set out to create simple but delightful experiences that reduce the pressures in the day-to-day lives of Chinese youth who feel incapable of achieving goals in their careers and personal lives, so much so that they have been called the “low-desire society”.
Sophie Carrillo’s thesis Unauthorized Play: Design Provocations for Children in Crisis is a year-long exploration on the potential benefits of implementing more play into children’s lives, particularly for children who are growing up in adverse environments. From her research and conversations, two key ingredients of play emerged: risk and agency. This insight launched her into an exploration of what makes kids feel empowered and fearless. Sophie envisioned several design interventions within the play spectrum, ranging from entirely child-led ones to ones directed by schools and parents.