Responsible Technology Design Intensive

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Responsible Technology Design Intensive

An Interdisciplinary Program in Inclusive Innovation

Can tech advance social justice? How might we design new technologies to center consent, legibility, transparency, and trust? 

In this 10-week interdisciplinary online intensive program, award-winning critical designer, researcher, and artist Caroline Sinders—along with guest lecturer Sarah Aoun, activist and Vice President of Security at the Open Technology Fund—will lead students in exploring human rights-centered design. Throughout the course, students will ideate and design technology-mediated products with these concepts and principles in mind and examine the use of UX and design tools in activism. 

This program is designed for tech industry workers who are interested in developing their fluency in human rights, consent, transparency, and trust to foster communal agency. Through lectures, reading, hands-on group exercises, and a capstone project, students will learn to apply various design movements like design justice and emancipatory design, and understand the practical tradeoffs for each. Additionally, students will learn how to employ design tools such as the Secure UX Checklist and hear from prominent human rights activists to explore ways we can design with (rather than for) the communities we serve.

Enroll now for the upcoming Winter Session starting January 15th, 2023!

Program Features
  • Learn how to engage with equitable design practices, ethical design movements, and web activism at work and in the broader community
  • Apply existing skills and course learnings to build on the work of activists and non-profit organizations
  • Gain experience in ethical UX design, digital ethnography, and case studies
  • Work on a personalized capstone project that integrates ethical design principles and practices into their work
  • Experience 30 hours of online classroom instruction
  • Join the Gray Area alumni network of over 300 peers and professionals
  • Creative and professional development

Outputs from this course might include:

  • Design artifacts
  • White papers
  • Data investigation/visualization
  • Community-oriented project proposal
  • Ethical alternatives to existing products
Course Logistics

2023 Winter Session

Dates: Every Sunday, January 15th, – March 19th, 2023

Times: 10am – 1pm PT

Cost: $1200 for a ten week course. We also offer Diversity Scholarships, find out more here.

Experience Level: Basic UX design, or human centered design knowledge recommended.

Course Access

All sessions are held online via zoom. Unlimited access to the full class recording is available to all enrolled students. Whether you couldn’t make it to class or want to refresh on some of the concepts, Gray Area will provide all enrolled students with a direct link.

Please email [email protected] with any questions.


Week 1 – January 15th, 10am PT

An overview of the course with a focus on criticism and ethics in tech

This class will focus on criticism and ethics in tech, along with a brief overview of other equity based design methodologies. We will also unpack: what is ethics, why does it matter to technology and when did it start to become popular and why?

Week 2 – January 22nd, 10am PT

More equity-based methodologies 

This class would also go into STS (science and technology studies), other justice focused technology research movements, civil society and NGOs, mutual aid groups, and different community activist groups that are fighting technology. This class will establish what are other disciplines that affect design, particularly with ethical design (CSOs, NGOs, community organizations, activism, etc).  

Week 3 – January 29th, 10am PT

The dawn of the web, web/tech activism, web harassment, and web harm

This class looks at early forms of the web, web/tech activism, web harassment, and web harm. We would talk about: the Arab Spring, Anonymous (good /bad examples), a rape in cyberspace, ECHO NY, and others.

Week 4 – February 5th, 10am PT

Intro to privacy & security, privacy by design, and how and why privacy matters for ethical design

Introduction to privacy and security, privacy by design, and how and why privacy matters for ethical design. This class will cover a lot of bases to prepare for our guest lecture’s class

We will also look at different kinds of privacy tools, products, and apps and think about how we would augment or change different apps to be more privacy focused. 

Week 5 – February 12th, 10am PT

David Huerta: In-depth security and privacy knowledge + where researching in private is necessary

This class will focus on a variety of more in-depth security and privacy knowledge. How to safely research and use technology while under surveillance (e.g., how to research abortion information while abortion is banned in parts of the US, how activists under surveillance use the web to avoid being tracked). Why might researching in private be necessary?

Week 6 – February 19th, 10am PT

Cade Diehm: Anxiety Games

Anxiety Games: Cade Diehm, of New Design Congress, teaches a combination of non-technical cooperative threat modeling that can be used in any circumstance—online or off—for digital tools and how they can interact with communities. 

Week 7 – February 26th, 10am PT

Speculative design interventions, creative technology + art for human rights, in-class project

This week will focus on speculative design interventions and how creative technology and art can provide new spaces of exploration for human rights. We will cover work by Forensic Architecture, Adam Harvey, Mimi Onuoha, Joana Moll, Cooking Sections and concepts like critical design, transition design, and Arte Útil. 

Week 8 – March 5th, 10am PT

Workshopping final project proposals: bringing together justice, privacy, security, and human rights

This week will also kick off the beginning of their final projects. This is also a class specifically focusing on bringing together all of our concepts—justice, privacy, security, and human rights, together. It will also highlight participatory design, and how and why that matters for ethical design. 

Week 9 – March 12th, 10am PT

1-on-1 meetings with students or group meetings

Week 10 – March 19th, 10am PT

Class presentations

Diversity Scholarship

To help creators of all backgrounds reach their goals, we are proud to offer a diversity scholarship to sustain and advance an inclusive community at Gray Area and beyond. This scholarship is for outstanding students from diverse backgrounds that are underrepresented in higher education and the fields of art, design, and technology. Recipients will receive 50% – 100% discount towards our Intensive Programs.

The Diversity Scholarship gives preferences to artists who identify as women, queer, gender nonconforming folks, and people of color. We highly encourage students to apply for this scholarship.

The Responsible Technology Intensive was developed with the generous support of an Artist Discovery Grant from the Hewlett Foundation.


Caroline Sinders is an award winning critical designer, researcher, and artist. For the past few years, they have been examining the intersections of artificial intelligence, intersectional justice, systems design, harm, and politics in digital conversational spaces and technology platforms. They have worked with the United Nations, Amnesty International, IBM Watson, the Wikimedia Foundation, and others. Sinders has held fellowships with the Harvard Kennedy School, Google’s PAIR (People and Artificial Intelligence Research group), Ars Electronica’s AI Lab, the Weizenbaum Institute, the Mozilla Foundation, Pioneer Works, Eyebeam, Ars Electronica, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Sci Art Resonances program with the European Commission, and the International Center of Photography. Their work has been featured in the Tate Exchange in Tate Modern, the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans, Telematic Media Arts, Victoria and Albert Museum, MoMA PS1, LABoral, Wired, Slate, Hyperallergic, Clot Magazine, Quartz, the Channels Festival, and others. Sinders holds a Masters from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Sarah Aoun is a hacker, activist, and a human rights technologist. She’s currently the Vice President of Security at the Open Technology Fund, an organization that invests in alternative and experimental technology solutions to internet freedom issues such as censorship and surveillance.  Her work is deeply rooted in a commitment to social justice and freedom. She has spent the past several years fighting against digital surveillance, and helping protect movements for liberation.  Sarah has worked in various capacities at the intersection of tech and human rights. Her work has taken her everywhere, from the Middle East, to East Asia, East Africa, and Central America, where she has trained activists, journalists, and high-risk communities in operational and information security, privacy, and counter-surveillance tactics.  She was a Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow (2017-2018), an Internet Freedom Fellow (2016-2017), and a former advisor for the Internet Freedom Festival, the Human Rights Foundation, and Reset.

Cade is the founder of the New Design Congress, an international research organisation forging a nuanced understanding of technology's role as a social, political and environmental accelerant. With a multi-disciplinary background in information security, interface politics and digital systems, Cade and his team study digital infrastructure to understand how technology at scale influences the perspectives and safety of policy-makers, activists and researchers. Through this work, Cade has led consultations with PEN International, UCL London, Google, Mozilla, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Institute for the Environment and Development, the European Commission, Protocol Labs, the Deutschland Bundestag Prototype Fund, the Center for Digital Resilience, the Algorithmic Transparency Institute and many others.

Prior to founding the New Design Congress, Cade spent ten years leading design-focused digital security projects in Australia, the United States, Korea, Germany, Singapore and the United Kingdom. He was an information security researcher and head of production at the Berlin-based non-profit Tactical Tech, providing security consultation and bringing the NGO’s activism to audiences worldwide. He contributed to early prototypes of the secure messaging app Signal and was Chief Design Officer at SpiderOak, then a Snowden approved no-knowledge cloud storage company.

Cade holds national and Paralympic world records, having represented Australia in international disability swimming between 1999 and 2006.