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Bias & Sensemaking

Bias & Sensemaking

A deep dive into how to identify, mitigate, and design for the presence of individual, institutional and systems-level bias.

A spirit of emergent conversation; creating a truly open, compassionate space where we can talk about difficult topics and reveal personal biases. This is game changing!
—Former Student

Objective & Outcomes

The ability to recognize and manage bias is increasingly a necessary skill for designers. Bias is not itself good or bad, just a side effect of being human, but when it dictates things like who gets funded, what products get made, who gets to participate, and what data feeds all these decisions, it radically reduces our ability to solve problems effectively. Because bias shows up in many forms—personal, organizational, cultural, algorithmic, even in the very words we use—and is often “hidden in plain sight,” we need a range of tools and lenses to anticipate and address it. This class will explore the various ways in which bias shows up, recognize signals that indicate its presence, and practice approaches to de-bias decision making.

Upon completing this course, students will be equipped to better recognize different kinds of bias (e.g., personal, cultural, algorithmic) in everyday experiences or artifacts, and have an evolved point of view about how bias shows up in design activities and some new approaches to navigate or combat it.

Typical Schedule

  • Session 1: Introduction: What is bias?
  • Session 2: Normal: Is there such a thing?
  • Session 3: Difference: How we define & think of “other”
  • Session 4: Representation/Exclusion: Why what we see & make matters
  • Session 5: Power/Privilege: Algorithmic “objectivity” & institutional bias
  • Session 6: Reflective Practitioners: Biases inherent in disciplines, work & ways of thinking
  • Session 7: Responsible Makers: Recognizing biases in design & in practice