Amid the pandemic, millions more people are relying on digital interfaces in their everyday lives. Everything from school and weddings to protests and art exhibitions are unfolding online, using tools like Zoom and Google Docs.
The tools we’re using to connect while physically apart can be helpful. But they’re not perfect. Many of them were designed for enterprise use by businesses, not communities. And their flaws — from poor security to lackluster moderation features — become even more pronounced as their user bases grow more diverse.
Today, former Mozilla Fellow Caroline Sinders is publishing “Responsible Design for Digital Communities,” a toolkit that organizers, designers, and developers can use to make both their online gatherings, and the tools that enable them, more inclusive. The project is funded by Omidyar Network.
The toolkit was crafted after the onset of the COVID pandemic, and is informed by dozens of interviews with educators, artists, activists, and others who are shifting their meetups, talks, and events online. It features a checklist of issues that designers and developers need to account for and address, like consensual privacy, good security, moderation capabilities, and properly syncing audio and video. The toolkit also features strategies for making digital events more inclusive, like intentionality and ritual. And, it includes stories from people and groups about their experience migrating their communities online.
Says Sinders: “Digital interfaces are the bridges to our communities right now. This toolkit and website brings together emergent best practices, workflows, and tools that communities, educators, mutual aid groups, designers, artists and activists are using for community building. This project highlights how design needs to change to best suit people in this moment.”
As a Mozilla Fellow, Sinders focused on creating more equitable and ethical technology systems. Before joining Mozilla, Caroline was a design researcher on the Wikimedia Foundation's Anti-Harassment team, as well as a design researcher with IBM Watson and an Open Lab fellow with BuzzFeed and Eyebeam looking at content moderation and machine learning.