IDSE402 Theory of Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship

About this course

This course teaches advanced theory of interaction design, specifically as related to dialogue, discourse, semantics, experience, and communication. Students will explore discourse related to the philosophical and sociological aspects of technology, and will relate this discourse to issues of wicked problems in society and culture.

Outcomes and competencies

The following outcome statements articulate the competencies, abilities, and skills a student will have as a result of completing this class. Students will...

  • Be able to describe complicated issues of design theory as related to design practice
  • Understand the historical underpinnings of the methods and processes used in design
  • Understand how to ground design decisions in a historical, philosophical context
  • Understand the relationship between behavior change, impact, and design

Core concepts and ideas

This class emphasizes the following main ideas, themes, and concepts:

  • Aesthetics, related to the visual, temporal, and cultural qualities of design solutions
  • Poetics and rhetoric, including the role of design in shaping both culture and behavior
  • Semantics and the subtle qualities of form in non-physical product, service or system design



Tue 3/5

Introduction / With the Best Intentions


Chaos Theory
Dahlia Lithwick

On the Importance of Theory to Design Practitioners -- Jon Kolko & Richard Anderson in Conversation
Richard Anderson

The Fallacy of Good: Marginalized Populations as Design Motivation
Joyojeet Pal

The [Human] Codebreakers: What Every Company Gets Wrong about Developing for the Emerging World, and How to Do It Right
Jessi Hempel

Rethinking Business Plan Competitions
Michael Gordon, Daniela Papi-Thornton


Thu 3/7

With the Best Intentions


Did This New Nonprofit Crack the Code for Building Developing World Housing?
Adele Peter

Save Africa: The Commodification of (PRODUCT) RED Campaign
Cindy Phu

Sex Doesn’t Sell Any More, Activism Does. And Don’t the Big Brands Know It
Alex Holder

Our Misguided Focus on Brand and User Experience
Jon Kolko

Everything is Fucked and I’m Pretty Sure It’s the Internet’s Fault
Mark Manson


Tue 3/12

With the Best Intentions


Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage
Aneel Karnani

The High Line’s Next Balancing Act
Laura Bliss

Reflections on Gratitude
Richard Anderson

A Bad Idea for ‘Fixing’ Homelessness That Just Won’t Go Away
Candace Faber

Spain’s ‘Robin Hood Restaurant’ Charges the Rich and Feeds the Poor
Lauren Frayer

Yet Another Dilemma
Richard Anderson


Thu 3/14

Assignment 1 Due


Tue 3/19



Urban Design and Architecture in the Service of Colonialism in Morocco
Assia Lamzah

Designing for Democracy at Work: Introduction and Chapter 11
Pelle Ehn

It’s Time to Define What “Good” Means in Our Industry
George Aye

Go Ahead – Ask People What They Want
Richard Anderson

Radicalizing Innovation: Are Activists the Invisible Designers?
Pierce Gordon


Thu 3/21



Jon Kolko

The World that UX is Helping to Create
Lis Hubert

Anxiety and Surveillance: Pillars of the New Economy
Nicholas Carr

Using Attachment Anxiety in Emotional Design & Marketing: How Companies Use Social Pain to Stop Customers from Leaving
Brian Cugelman

The House that Spied on Me
Kashmir Hill, Surya Mattu

The Tyranny of Convenience
Tim Wu


Tue 3/26



Design Ethics
Richard Buchanan

Ethics Can't Be a Side Hustle
Mike Monteiro

Are Designers Becoming the New Activists?
Richard Anderson

Defining Design as Activism
Ann Thorpe

Able, Allowed, Should; Navigating Modern Tech Ethics
Margaret Gould Stewart

Designing with Vectors of Influence
Uday Gajendar


Thu 3/28

Assignment 2 Due


Tue 4/2

What Limits What We Can Imagine?


How Medicine Constructs Its Objects / Tenacious Assumptions in Western Medicine
Byron Good / Deborah Gordon

Free Ideas from a Human-Centered Designer for Hospitals that Want To Be (or Make it Seem Like They Are) Patient-Centric
April Starr

Reframing Health to Embrace Design of Our Own Well-Being
Hugh Dubberly, Rajiv Mehta, Shelley Evenson, Paul Pangaro

Metaphors Can Change Our Opinions in Ways We Don’t Even Realize
Steve Rathje


Thu 4/4

What Limits What We Can Imagine?


Making by Making Strange: Defamiliarization and the Design of Domestic Technologies
Genevieve Bell, Mark Blythe, Phoebe Sengers

People are people, but technology is not technology
Gary Marsden, Andrew Maunder, Munier Parker

Incremental and Radical Innovation: Design Research vs. Technology and Meaning Change
Don Norman, Roberto Verganti

The Dilemma of Empathy in Design
Richard Anderson

Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education
David Dunne, Roger Martin


Tue 4/09

What Limits What We Can Imagine?


Design Fiction
Bruce Sterling

Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot
Tom Vanderbilt

The Law of Accelerating Returns
Ray Kurzweil

Why Nothing Works Anymore
Ian Bogost

You Are Already Living Inside a Computer
Ian Bogost


Thu 4/11

Assignment 3 Due


Tue 4/16

The Opportunities of Entrepreneurship


The Sharing Economy is a Lie: Uber, Ayn Rand and the Truth about Tech and Libertarians
Richard Eskow

Creating Shared Value
Michael Porter, Mark Kramer

Health Care — A Final Frontier for Design
Stacey Chang

The Tamagotchi Trap
Joe Edelman

The Fiction of No Friction
Steve Selzer

The Benefits of Riding the Bus
Richard Anderson


Thu 4/18

The Opportunities of Entrepreneurship


From Social Theory to Policy Design
Stephen Linder, Guy Peters

The Construction of Complexity in Design and Public Policy Contexts
Chris Urbina Meierling

Design Through Collective Action / Collective Action Through Design
Christopher Le Dantec

Civic Design
Carl DiSalvo, Christopher Le Dantec

Beyond Tech: Policymaking in a Digital Age
Jennifer Pahlka


Tue 4/23

The Opportunities of Entrepreneurship

Connecting Things: Broadening Design to Include Systems, Platforms, and Product-Service Ecologies
Hugh Dubberly

On What It Takes for Companies to Move Toward Social and Environmental Responsibility, How We Might Help, and What That Means for Design — My Conversation with Marc Rettig
Richard Anderson

Transition Design
Terry Irwin, Gideon Kossoff, Cameron Tonkinwise, Peter Scupelli

Transition Design: Using Design to Affect Systems Change
Cheryl Dahle

How Pizza Could Save the World
Don Norman, Eli Spencer

Special guest: Marc Rettig of Fit Associates, SVA NYC (Design for Social Innovation), CMU (School of Design)


Thu 4/25

Assignment 4 Due