The Months After AC4D

Congratulations, students.

Soon, you’ll be graduating in May. Your hard work this past year will have paid off in respect from your colleagues, your professors, and you’ll feel incredible. You also will wonder “what’s next?” and “how can I process all these feelings without reflecting on a blog?” You’ll figure that part out.

Seeing as I graduated from AC4D around this time last year, I’d like to share my story with you and some thoughts about the upcoming months. My hope is that you may use my experience as a guidance through transitioning to the next stage in your journey. Your experiences will differ from my own, but I’ve always felt like it helps to see how someone overcame a transition period.

To set the scene, here is my emotional journey map from this time in April to about mid-June. As you can see, the month of May was wrought with highs and lows and right about June is when things start to stabilize.


We’ll talk about each of these points in time and some things I learned from each event.

The Final Presentations and the AC4D Graduation Party

Two words: fucking awesome.

There is nothing more exhilarating for me than graduating from something that pushed me to grow intellectually and emotionally. There’s a period of anxiety that I experienced around my presentation skill and the fidelity of my work. But about an hour before people started coming in for the final presentations, I felt like I had been dunked in a bucket of ice water. I’d done this many times before, and learned. I had this.

Finishing the final presentation felt surreal. I almost couldn’t believe I was done.

Then came the party. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves. For the first time in the program, I let myself feel proud in the work that I had done, and the joy was overwhelming.


I’m very hesitant to praise myself without joking about it. My graduation from undergrad was less exuberant; I could only think about the uncertainty ahead and criticize myself for not figuring it out sooner. However, here at the graduation party I really celebrated.

I realized that if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t praise yourself, it can be overwhelmingly emotional to let yourself be vulnerable and excitable.

That’s not a bad thing. It’s a great, powerful feeling.

I left AC4D feeling empowered, like I could take on the world.

Coming Down Hard

This one is the hardest to write about. My boyfriend and I had agreed that after AC4D, once we went to Marfa, we’d be getting engaged, and after that, married. When we talked about it the weeks coming up to graduation, he wasn’t sure any more. In our 5+ years together, he hadn’t seen me this intensely passionate about something and worried that the rest of our lives would play out like AC4D.

I got that. We saw each other on Friday and Saturday nights, but mostly I came home after he went to sleep and woke up for work before he got up. It’s hard for AC4D not to permeate every aspect of your relationship. I ate, slept, and breathed it for a year, and in part it was due to the program, but the other part was due to the fact that I was very passionate about the work I was doing. We were helping the queer community, and it felt wonderful.

Marfa was supposed to be the trip where we got engaged, and we’d been planning it for months. I was crushed. I realized that I had taken a lot of relationships that were supporting me for granted, and in my passion to get the things I wanted, I had ignored the most important person to me.

I would say here that the lesson I learned was not to take others for granted, and that’s true. But also I think it’s that I expected others to come out of AC4D as self-congratulatory as I did. I planned the trip around the time when I would be the happiest, not when the both of us would be.

I understand that in the course of a long-term relationship that there will be times when one person takes care of things while the other pursues their dreams. But I took the road that because I was happy, other people around me should be happy for me without me having to give anything in return. I learned my lesson.

Going to Marfa

When we arrived at Marfa, we were both exhausted. He, exhausted from a year of supporting me without an emotional payoff. Me, exhausted from a year of personal growth with the knowledge that if I didn’t do something fast, I could screw up a relationship I really cared about.


We eyed each other from across a table in Marfa, not really knowing what to say. We had just spent a year dating for Friday and Saturday nights only, and here we were, spending a week together out in the middle of nowhere.

Marfa was a great place to be. Similar to us, it was at times a vibrant city and then others, a ghost town. It wavered between life and death that caused me to think deeply about how to use the time we spent there. We ate good food. We talked about what was going on in our lives. We reconnected and we cried.

Marfa put into perspective the time I had at AC4D. I realized that while the root of my happiness lived in me doing the work I wanted to do, the soil that held the root were my relationships. Both were equally important.


We made dinner together in the green and white trailer in the above picture. It was made of anything that we could snag from the Get Go and some orange soda.

As we were eating the food we made, we smiled at each other.

“I missed you,” I said.

“Me too,” he said. And we smiled big, genuine smiles.


The Big Takedown

I got a reminder email from Jon around the time when we were in Marfa to take down our projects for the next class so soon after leaving Marfa with my faith restored, I went back to AC4D with bags to take down the queery project.

When I opened the door to AC4D, I expected the same hustle-and-bustle I was used to. Students working, shouts of “hello!” and groans of frustration. Instead, I got silence. I peeked into everyone’s rooms—their projects still stood like a silent mausoleum to the activity that had been happening in the past year.


Looking around the room, I remembered the late nights that Alex and I had gone through to get to a working prototype that we tested with the community. It especially stung because Alex and I were no longer working on the project together, and I didn’t know what I wanted to to with queery after we had received feedback.

We had so many interviews, so many people open up their hearts to us to help us achieve something that could benefit the queer community, and as I was packing things into bags, I felt like I was letting everyone down. I didn’t know what I was going to say to folks who reached out to me for help or who asked about the status of the queery project. It was in a form where we could have piloted it, but I was unwilling to do it for the sake of my personal life and the fact that I would have been running solo.


I left AC4D with my life for the past year in bags and questioning where queery was going to end up. Would it even be an app? How was I going to face the queer community now when I felt like I had failed them?

I now can reflect on this point in my life and realize that in order to really help the queer community in the way I wanted to, I needed to be a more integrated part of it than just a passive observer. I wouldn’t say that for all design projects, but specifically for the depth of what I wanted to do I now know that supporting and generating ideas from within the community has been much more powerful. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past year, and it’s felt great. I never really abandoned queery. Myself and other members have piloted some activities and generated ideas that have been very meaningful to myself and others within the community.

At the time though, I remember feeling a lot of fear in abandoning the project and pursuing my personal interests in design. How was I personally going to help people by being a designer?

ATX Hack for Change

Things generally improved after my last walk through AC4D. I was working as a contract designer and loving my clients and gigs. I think the turning point for me in discovering the power of design was through the ATX Hack for Change.

The ATX Hack for Change is a day where tech folks get together with non-profits in Austin to provide to them a weekend of free work and ideas in exchange for being able to help non-profits, look at the inner-workings of their organization, and eat free food.

My boyfriend and I are hackathon nuts, so we thought it would be fun to work with non-profits over the weekend. I had signed up to work with the Capital Area Food Bank with some other AC4D students.

However, when I got there I saw that the Capital Area Food Bank had tons of folks signed up for their project, and the Girl Scouts of Central Texas were about to go home because no one had signed up for their project. Their project was to make a way for Girl Scouts to communicate with their advisors and track their progress to achieving their Gold Award. The Gold Award is a capstone project in the Girl Scouts, and similar to AC4D, it is done over a year, has the focus of helping others, and as an added bonus, must be sustainable without the founder’s help.

We caught them going out of the door and asked them if they needed help. They offered us cookies. A beautiful friendship was born.


The first task was to identify issues that needed to be solved in the MVP, and then outline what the MVP was actually supposed to look like. Next, we split into teams of designers and developers with some people floating between the two. My boyfriend taught the girls GitHub and Ember, and I taught them wire framing and systems thinking.

The girls were amazing. I can’t begin to describe how fast they picked up on the ideas that we were throwing at them and just took it and ran. We made icons in Illustrator on our first day and the girls were beaming. We got GitHub set up on our computers and the girls high-fived.


We reflected during periods of rest on team problems and how to better communicate between the dev and design teams. We lauded our accomplishments, and by the end of the hackathon, we had a functioning prototype of the site we wanted to create with wireframes of all the future states of tool.

The girls were disappointed that they hadn’t built the MVP in full, but we told them about how amazing the things that they did were. They not only made a thing, but mapped out future states of a thing. They essentially completed Q4 of AC4D in three days.

Watching those girls learn and grow ignited an even deeper fire in me to how I could use design to inspire others. I wanted to learn as much as I could so that I could help others. I felt like there was still so much to learn and I’d only just dipped half of myself in with AC4D.

The Engagement

Soon after that, my boyfriend said that he had a surprise for me.

We drove out to Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and poked around the park, looking at the butterflies nestling onto the wildflowers. It was a calm day, and we were both feeling great.

Then, he pulled out a ring.

I can’t even begin to describe to you my emotions at that point. It was joy mixed with fear of disappointing him as I did just less than a month ago. The joy won out. I screamed yes, we held hands, and a crowd of onlookers applauded. It was perfect.


Reflecting on that point in my life, I think that I have come to realize that in seeking what I thought was an end point such as graduating AC4D or getting engaged, I was completely blind to the fact that I was simultaneously closing a door while opening a new one.

Just as the ATX Hack for Change inspired me to work harder to inspire others to do design, my engagement inspired me to realize that nothing really is an endpoint; it’s just a new door opening to another chapter of my life that has its own unique challenges.

So students, in going into the final weeks of piloting, in prepping for your presentations, in drafting your wireframes, remember to congratulate yourself. Remember to congratulate others for the support they’ve given you throughout your journey. Remember that the passion to do (or not do) design that you’ve gained from AC4D is just as important as the relationships you’ve forged during your time here. Remember that there are many paths to completing your capstone project and they don’t just involve starting a company or completely abandoning it. Remember that you have a lot to teach others and still much more to learn.

And remember that in ending your time here, you are opening up new doors. Which path you take will be entirely up to you.


Hello Again, World: A Reflection of Post-AC4D Life

Hello, everyone.

After almost two months out of AC4D, and after meeting some of the new students who are going to be in the next year, I’ve collected my thoughts (albeit messily) on what it has been like post-graduation. This post is intended to educate the new students going in, to connect with AC4D alums, and hopefully to give comfort to the folks in my class who are still probably going through their own processing.

I’ll be the first to admit it, I was terrified of graduating. The last time I graduated from an educational institution, I had a serious disconnect with reality and fell into a depression. I actually recorded this story for RISK! podcast during my time at AC4D, and it was fresh on my mind when I graduated.

This time was different. Instead of feeling unprepared for the “real world” post-college, I felt incredibly prepared. I had productive thought patterns and artifacts and a killer portfolio and contract work; I had GANTT charts and efficiency to tackle even the most complex of problems. It feels amazing to be doing the work you’ve always wanted to do with the people you want to do it with. Without AC4D, I wouldn’t be doing what I love today.

On the flip side, I was entirely oblivious to how my year in the program had changed the relationships around me. There is something for me about the creative process that naturally distances yourself from others in its observation and analysis. I wondered if in the search to become closer to others by making and doing I was ending up alienating myself. I’m currently a terrific designer who is growing and establishing bonds with clients—where exactly was my passion in doing the same thing with my friends and family?

That, I currently don’t have the answer to, but like every question I ask that’s a wicked problem, I’m currently whiteboarding it out. I’m setting constraints. My fiancee will not let me make a GANTT chart to track the progress of our relationship (though I tried), and I don’t need or want to have that kind of predictability. I’m getting used to setting my own structure and pace in my own life, and what’s good for myself and those around me who I care about.

My year at AC4D seems like such a blur. I vaguely remember the emotional highs and lows, but every once in a while, I pick out a memory that I truly cherish, like first time I saw Alex’s baby over Skype. It was late and we were both bone tired, and Alex was holding his newborn baby and calling out design ideas over Skype to me. We both laughed at how ridiculous it was to have a kid in the middle of an intensive program, but I also remember having a deep well of respect for Alex for taking on possibly the two most trying moments of his life at the same time. I still have that respect for him.

My only piece of advice for students going into the program is that it is going to be possibly the most intense, exciting, infuriating, and empowering year of your life. You will feel all of these emotions, sometimes all at once.

Record it. Take pictures. Don’t trust your memory to remember it all because after this year is over, you’ll be thinking “what the hell happened to me?” It won’t feel real, but once you see a photograph or a video, you’ll remember again and know that you achieved something amazing with the help of some amazing people.

queery: Connecting the queer community, one person at a time.

Hello, everyone!
Chelsea here, at the end of this quarter to sum up our journey with queery throughout our time in AC4D and beyond. I admit, this will be a bittersweet blog post for me. We’ve grown so much and learned a lot in this past year, and looking forward to the future is a simultaneously exhilarating and frightening exercise.

First, let me tell you a story. When I was 16-18 years old, I came out as queer to my friends and family. There wasn’t a lot of questions; in fact, there were no questions. I had this overarching sense that no one really wanted to address it; it was an elephant in the room.  It was what one of our participants called being “unsupportive in a passive way.” They said,

“I don’t care who you make out with, but we’re all equal.” That’s coming from a kind place, but often it is incredibly dismissive of what it’s trying to support. The feelings of otherness is so much bigger than who we kiss or what bathroom we use. It’s so relentless.”

As we worked with the trans* and gender-variant community, I realized that while our experiences were completely different, we did share this feeling in common—the feeling of being alienated from our friends and family and the subsequent fear of rejection when we came out.

One of our participants, Emily, talked about her experience as she was “walking the plank” both with her identity and her social interactions.

After synthesizing the stories of the many participants in the trans* community, we realized that there was a circle of rejection, retreating, and reinforcement that the community experienced.

Rejection was in the form of people ignoring them, people verbally or physically abusing them, or people cutting them out of their lives outright. There was then a retreat to safer, online spaces where they could be themselves with others, but through online media and their own experiences (like the story of this trans* student being suspended just for using a gendered bathroom), there is a continuous reinforcement that people do not accept or care about them, and then they feel rejection anew.

We made queery to break that cycle.

queery is a service that allows members of the queer community to meet based on interests for one-on-one networking. Users choose their interests, their location, and schedule, and queery pairs them up by what they want to talk about.

We’ve also considered the fear of being outed (or indicating to someone that you are queer before you are ready to tell them)—we don’t want to be like Google Plus, who accidentally outed a transgender woman to her coworker. Because of that, we have a commitment to the privacy of our user’s data, and also a handy way of people to find one another in a coffee shop without outing themselves, where folks hit the “I’m here” button on the reminder pop up, and the screen will turn green and vibrate (thus alerting the other person that you are there, but not calling too much attention to yourself).

We’re very cognizant of the feedback we’ve received around keeping our user’s data safe, and because of that, this has changed the way we’ve thought about making queery a sustainable business to continue providing value to the queer community.

When we thought about adding in the additional challenge of maintaining queery through a stream of revenue, we wanted to make sure that the queer community knew that they own queery. That’s why we propose to do a yearly pay-what-you-want subscription (minimum $10) for the community. The idea that is you can pay into the community to help out other members in the community, or if you don’t have a lot of cash on you, can still access queery for a minimal fee.

When we projected this out with growth over three years, we realized that we would most likely be profitable in 2017 and be able to continue to provide value for the queer community by adding more features and partnering with other local LGBT and trans*-specific organizations to throw parties, get people to know one another, and get people connected.

In this quarter, we have been piloting with the local queer community in Austin, and the feedback we have received from the community that encourages us. One participant said,

“[When I met the other person,] I felt connected [to the queer community] again, and that felt awesome. I hadn’t realized how cut off I felt.”

However, there is more than just encouragement—we learned through the pilot that the intent of queery was not as well-explained as we’d hoped.

“It was a little bit unclear to me what the purpose or the end goal of this was except to meet people and possibly make a friend.”

Indeed, queery’s purpose is to meet and make friends, but I think we wrongfully assumed that people would have the same mental model as we did around the importance around friendships, and so in future iterations, the importance of making friends will be better explained.

We also found that the network effect extends beyond queery. Emily and Robert, two participants, met through queery, and later recognized one another at a party. Emily invited Robert over to hang out with her and her friends. If queery had not been present, Robort might have never received that invitation. We were overjoyed when we heard about this.

I also realize that if queery succeeds, we might be planning for our own obsolescence. If the queer community is already well-connected, wouldn’t that mean that queery is no longer needed?

Maybe. I’d love to live in a future where when someone comes out, it is not looked at as an elephant in the room, but celebrated with open arms and love. I’d love to see, and have seen before, queer communities rally around their members for support. And I hope that queery is another support for the queer community to lean on one another when they’re going through rough times.

I want to work collaboratively with other LGBT organizations from an angle of being queer-first; a unique angle for those of us who don’t want fit the mold, don’t really care to fit the mold, or those of us who ware figuring out what the hell is a mold.

I plan on continuing my work with queery and will continue to reach out to the communities that we have built ties with in the past year. Without their help, I don’t know where I’d be.

And if you’re interested in getting in on queery’s next steps—contact me. We need folks to pilot, and we’ll be seeking out more and more folks from the queer community in Austin to help me make queery something great.

Signing off,

The Maturation of Discourse around Social Entrepreneurship and Wicked Problems

Social entrepreneurship is a new concept; as I experienced in our readings for theory class, there are still arguments being had about what defines social entrepreneurship. That should give you an idea of how new social entrepreneurship is today.

Today, I’m going to talk about the maturation of the discussion around social entrepreneurship and how it applies to the understanding of what a wicked problem is and how it functions. My hypothesis is such:

The more we understand social entrepreneurship and its effects on the world, the better discourse we can have about the appropriate actions to take around wicked problems.

When I talk about “wicked problems,” I am referencing first and foremost Rittel and Webber’s article Dilemmas in a General Theory of PlanningTo understand this argument better, I suggest you read it—it’s a great working definition and one of the first definitions around wicked problems.

The main three definitions around wicked problems that I will be using are that wicked problems are systemic, are fundamentally changed through any action upon them, and require that the problem-solver take accountability for the consequences of his or her actions.

When I talk about maturity of an argument, I will be using a metaphor around bees and their growth. First, the bee is deposited as an egg in a honeycomb (which represents the acknowledgment but not full understanding of a wicked problem), and then grows into a larvae (which represents testing hypotheses and gathering information). Then the larvae turns into a pupae (representing a deeper understanding of the wicked problem and its many facets), then growing into an adult bee (which are actions that fundamentally change the wicked problem).

Each author can be defined in one of these spaces—in this argument, I exclude all of the authors from falling into the “Actions that affect and fundamentally change the system” camp, because while the discourse around social entrepreneurship has matured greatly, it has yet to reach a defined process to tackling wicked problems.

Karnani represents the hypothesizing and testing phase of the argument around social entrepreneurship. Karnani’s argument that “The only way to help the poor and alleviate poverty is to raise the real income of the poor,” is straightforward and prescriptive, but according to Rittel and Webber, is not a complete answer in and of itself. According to Rittel and Webber,

“Does poverty mean low income? Yes, in part. But what are the determinants of low income? Is it deficiency of the national and regional economies, or is it deficiencies of cognitive and occupational skills within the labor force? If the latter, the problem statement and the problem “solution” must encompass the educational processes. But, then, where within the educational system does the real problem lie?”

While Karnani’s hypothesis about simply increasing the poor’s income to alleviate poverty is true in some facet, it will not in and of itself alleviate poverty. There are many more facets to poverty that expand beyond income, and these must also be considered as solutions as well.

Wyatt represents the deeper understanding of the societal threads around social entrepreneurship; in her article, Design Thinking for Social Innovation, she talks of a woman who purposely does not buy water from a treatment plant, even though it is close to her village. Why? Because the water treatment plant requires her to fill a 5 gallon jug of water, which she cannot easily carry, from the plant to her house (roughly 3 miles). Other women who have other family members to help them can buy treated, healthier water, but she cannot due to the fact that her family members work out of the village. She urges for a more systemic view of the wicked problems social entrepreneurs are trying to solve and says, “Design thinking—inherently optimistic, constructive, and experiential—addresses the needs of people who will consume a product or service and the infrastructure that enables it.”

What she does not address in her article, however, are what the consequences are even of design thinking now that the water treatment plant has irrevocably changed the nature of the problem (the problem was access to clean water, and now is access to someone who can carry the clean water). Rittel and Webber argue that,

“With wicked problems, however, every implemented solution is consequential. It leaves “traces” that cannot be undone. One cannot build a freeway to see how it works, and then easily correct it after unsatisfactory performance. Large public-works are effectively irreversible, and the consequences they generate have long half-lives. Many people’s lives will have been irreversibly influenced, and large amounts of money will have been spent–another irreversible act.”

So, where our our consequences in thinking about the idea of social entrepreneurship. The person who has built the most comprehensive definition of social entrepreneurship is Dees, who says that by definition, social entrepreneurs are:

  • “Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission.
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning.
  • Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.”
Compared with Rittel and Webber who state that wicked problems are:
  • Have no stopping rule.
  • There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
  • The solvers of wicked problems are liable for the consequences of their actions.
The parallels are clear; both Dees and Rittel and Webber see that because wicked problems have no stopping rule, social entrepreneurs must be relentless. Wicked problems have no immediate and ultimate solution, and so social entrepreneurs must be consistently innovative. And finally, they both agree that social entrepreneurs carry with them the weight of accountability on their shoulders for their actions in regards to wicked problems.I have created a diagram outlining more in detail the other authors and their positions as the discourse around social entrepreneurship and wicked problems deepens and matures.

See the full PDF here.

Social entrepreneurs and wicked problems are inextricably linked; we cannot talk about social entrepreneurs without referencing the complex social problems that they are taking action on.

As our understanding of wicked problems deepens, so does our understanding of what it means to be a social entrepreneur; we realize that while our business may not “solve” a wicked problem, it will surely change it in an intangible way, and that the best way to “solve” wicked problems is to have many social entrepreneurs working on issues and collaborating to address all of the multiple facets of a problem.

Motivation, Context, and Their Relation to Both Designer and Design

For the past few weeks in our Theory of Interaction Design class, we’ve been talking about the cognition of design, sense making, and the way that it interacts both in a visual stage but also in a business environment. Our task this week was to create a 2×2 diagram and place each of the authors on this diagram.

The readings seemed at first, disparate, and organizing ten disparate things proved to be a challenge. However, as I started distilling what all of the readings had in common, I came to a few key conclusions:

1) There are three direct actors in the process of design:

  • The user;
  • The artifact (the design itself);
  • And the designer.

All three of these actors seemed to have an affect on the process of design; in human-centered design, the user is who is considered first and foremost; but once research is complete and sense making begins to occur, there is a dialogue between the memory of the user, the designer, and then, eventually, the artifact.

2) That these three direct actors were indirectly influenced by two things:

  • Personal motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic and
  • The context of the situation.

In my last theory post, I talked a great deal about context and why it matters; this post, I will take an ancillary view to context and use it as a means of influencing the user, artifact, and designer in the process of design.

Click here to view the full PDF.

The axises are – Context drives the creation of new design vs. design drives the creation of new context, and that design is inherently extrinsically motivated (for users) vs. Design is intrinsically motivated (by your own mind).

I’m going to zoom into two people who are on opposite sides of the spectrum—Edward De Bono and Charles Pierce.

Edward De Bono writes about his colored hat system, and how “the ritual and artificiality of the hat system is its greatest advantage.” He uses an artificial constraint (hats) to help facilitate conversation with others around design because in many business settings, it is difficult for users to understand the meaning behind design thinking, but easier to understand, “I put my red hat on and now I’m talking about emotion.”

Though it is an arbitrary constraint, De Bono’s idea was brought on by the fact that not many people in business could interpret what people meant by “creativity” and “design.” There was a certain intangibility to it that was not understood by people in the business world, and by developing the hat system, De Bono is allowing others to experience design thinking.

This is a great example of design that is created both by context and extrinsic motivation to help out others—he saw a problem in understanding, ideated around the best way to express design thinking, and came up with a hat system.

Pierce, on the other hand, is a logician by trade, and argues that the thought that occurs behind design is abduction, which is closely linked to perception (so much that distinguishing between the two might be difficult) and is an interpretation of the intent of someone/something.

For Pierce, perception and abduction truly are what influences our context (indeed it is the lens through which we see the world), but to tease out abduction from perception is what occurs in the sense making process, formed entirely inside our own minds.

There is a tangibility that we can see in De Bono’s case (we physically have colored hats we can “wear”), and an intangibility in Pierce’s argument, but both are strong ways in approaching sense making in design.

My personal view on the diagram is that we as designers must be able to move around to multiple places on the chart; we must be able to be both intrinsically (for carving out sense making) and extrinsically (to work with our users to make a usable product) as well as allow ourselves to be influenced by the context of the world and “the ‘talk back’ of our design” as Shön calls it. The ability to hold multiple conflicting truths in their head, similar to Pierce, is a mark of a talented designer.

AC4D Speaker Series Graphic Recording: "Aging in Place" by Jon Freach

At AC4D’s last Speaker Series, Jon Freach spoke about his research around Aging in Place and taking the design research he did into concept.

I did a graphic recording of the talk for your viewing pleasure, and I hope you enjoy it!

If you haven’t already, go check out the AC4D Speaker Series! This Wednesday is Leah Bojo talking about Policy Values and Getting Results. And if you want to see more of my graphic recordings, check out my site at

queery: "Is it working…?" and Our Ponderous Process

Hey everyone!

Alex and I have been touch and go on the blog posts, and I do apologize—today I’m making up for it by posting some progress shots to show you where we’ve come from, and what we have so far.

As Alex mentioned, we’ve come out of the end of this developer hole that we put ourselves through trying to build the application from scratch. Not a good idea, and I’m sure that the lesson Alex learned from that is when prototyping, build fast, and then iterate.

I’m pleased to say that our Google Forms, while perhaps too argyle, is working well:

So far we have a few responses, and enough to pair folks together via interest, so I’m looking forward to having folks meet with one another and gauge their feedback on the meetings! Functionally, it is doing what we want it to do, on a low-fi scale, and in the next four weeks, I want to bring up the fidelity of this bit by bit.

So about that argyle…
Currently, queery is lacking in visual design. Google Forms can only do so much, and in order to change the argyle pattern in the forms, we would have to host the form somewhere else and dig into the CSS. While it is possible, it’s not something I’d like to get into in the first version of our prototype, so Alex and I mutually decided that the next phase of queery will be built on top of a WordPress framework, which allows for decent customizability.

As a teaser, I’ll show you what we have in store for queery.

Our logo has shifted slightly, but has gone from this:

…to this.

We’ve shifted from charcoal and turquoise to navy and teal; our color palette is currently this:

We wanted to take the idea of the transgender pride flag and modify it slightly from baby blues and pinks to stronger, more mature teals and corals. We’re hoping that this palette conveys the friendliness and encouragement that we desire in the application while still maintaining a sense that this is a trustworthy, safe process.

What I’ve learned so far is to trust that we will probably not get it right the first time.  I have a lot of anxiety about how the coffee meetings will go because I so badly want to make a positive impact in the community that piloting this is a big deal for me. I also know that the designing process is an iterative one, and that through the stumbling and falling, we’ll pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep going.

Incredible thanks to the folks who are currently using queery—we wouldn’t be able to do this pilot without you. And to those of you who are in the LGBTQIA community in Austin, if you want to pilot queery, get in touch with me via chelsea (at)

I’m looking forward to seeing what the coming weeks will hold.

New Quarter, New Queery

Welcome to Quarter 4, everyone!

Alex and I last posted, Queery was a fully fleshed-out design concept that we presented to a panel of entrepreneurs and designers. The initial response we received was very positive, and overall, we’re pleased to see that Queery is resonating not only in the hearts of trans* folk, but in people who are interested in being allies to the trans* community.

As a reminder, Queery is an invite-only safe space for trans* and gender variant folks to discover their local community through face-to-face meetings. Queery aims to create a community around get-togethers and fuel connections through matching folks by common interest.

Where are we now?
For the past two weeks, Alex and I have been working on developing a pilot program that we can work with the community. We are looking to test out Queery with people who want to provide feedback on the service so that we can make it better. It’s one thing to test folks with paper prototypes, but another to test with a working website.

Below is a peek into the finalized wireframes for the Queery website.

Since we have started our piloting, Alex has been hard at work setting up an EC2 instance and a GitHub repository to make sure that we have all the development tools we need for future coding work. I’ve been working on making sure that we have all the pages and styling we need to match the wireframes.

Going forward, we are seriously thinking about our business plan and how Queery will sustain itself. Will we be receiving grants from LGBTQIA organizations for assistance, or will this be powered by its amazing users? We are hoping the latter.

Want to Help?
For any of you who identify as trans* or gender-variant, we would love your help in piloting Queery. Would you like to meet new people in the Austin area? We can set you up with one on one meetings with other folks based on interest. Please reach out to us at if you are interested.

Whose Context is This, and Do I Care?: A Look Into Technology and How it Affects Us Contextually

In our theory class this quarter, we have been reading about the way technology inserts itself into society, and what its relevance is. Today, I’d like to share with you some of the main threads of these eight readings and provide some basis for discussion around the concept of who owns context in our society.

By context, I will paraphrase Dourish in saying it is “…a concept of [continuous] action versus a social setting.” For example, if you are sitting in a restaurant, you are in a specific context. There is a social setting and decorum around being in a restaurant (social norms dictate that we usually are wearing clothing when in a public dining area like a restaurant) and the actions happening around the restaurant affect the setting (if a waiter drops a dish, people react to it, and it affects the way others act).

In our modern society today, there is a joke about whether “we control technology, or technology controls us.” This is the question that I am interested in when I talk specifically about the context of our day-to-day lives. Is technology affecting the context of our lives, and is it making it more or less meaningful?

In the following diagram, I outline the opinions expressed around these questions from the eight authors. They have varying opinions about the way technology affects us, and why this matters.

Click for the full diagram.

A trend I noticed as I was diagramming is that people who spoke of technology being the creators of context in our lives were generally talking about the modern day, while people who saw context as a product of human interactions were talking about something more future-focused. Many of the authors had a juxtaposition of both of the arguments, where they spoke of technology influencing our lives currently, and moving more towards a future where humans controlled their own outcomes.

Personally, my answer to these questions is that in some aspect, technology controls the context of our lives. I do wake up to check my e-mails, but I wouldn’t say that being productive in this case makes me happier. I am at my happiest when (using technology or not) I am figuring out a problem or creating something new out of nothing. I view technology as a partner-in-crime to humanity, in the sense that wherever we point it, we as humans can make meaning out of it. If someone tells me that Adobe Illustrator was a revolutionary program for artists, I would be dubious, but only until someone shows me the work that was produced by humans through Illustrator will I be impressed with the tool. Digital art programs have influenced the way I think about shapes, colors, and lines. But the way I think about shapes, colors, and lines and the way I draw them is also influenced by the humans that I interact with daily. I think both technology and humanity is responsible for shaping our context, but technology only becomes meaningful to other humans when they see what they can do with a technology.

I argue that as humans, we can dream beyond the constraints of technology, and push what we think technology can accomplish further towards shaping our lives in a positive way. I also think that as humans, we have to reclaim what our context means for us in our day-to-day lives and see in which parts technology makes our lives more meaningful, because in some cases, it does not.