A printout from the downloadable RiotID pocket book, which helps users track the use of riot gear across the world. (courtesy Interference Archive, MinuteWorks, and RiotID)

A few years ago, a display of “disobedient objects” went up at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It included political video games, defaced currency, banners, and an inflatable “general assembly” for activist gatherings like Occupy Wall Street. Design, the show suggested, has the potential to reflect and even remedy pressing social problems. Of course, other objects — from chemical mace to surveillance technology to rubber bullets — are designed to control. These objects bounce off each other, sometimes literally, in what could be called a design arms race between the resistance and the resisted.

This week, a free public talk at the Interference Archive in Brooklyn, “Cruel Design/Disobedient Design — The Art and Politics of Designing for Social Justice,” will discuss design from both sides. A co-curator of the V&A’s Disobedient Objects exhibition, Gavin Grindon, will take part. So will the progressive design studio Minute Works and Anna Feigenbaum, a Principal Academic in Digital Storytelling at Bournemouth University who coordinates the RiotID project. According to Interference Archive’s event description, design can do more than influence specific objects: “Engaging in civic and participatory design can foster infrastructures of resistance, shape social movement cultures, and innovate tactics that spread around the world.”

Installation view, Disobedient Objects at the Victoria & Albert Museum (courtesy the Victoria & Albert Museum)

When: Thursday, April 5, 7-9pm
Where: Interference Archive (314 7th Street, Gowanus, Brooklyn, New York)

More info at Interference Archive.

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Daniel A. Gross

Daniel A. Gross is a former editor at Hyperallergic, and he is a writer and radio producer in New York City. Some of his stories have appeared in The Guardian, 99% Invisible, The Atlantic,...