Yasaman Sheri

Berkman Klein Fellowship

Proposal 2019


+ Ethics of Sensing
+ About me
+ Proposal Questions Answered
+ Curriculum Vitae
+ Writing Samples
+ Teaching Philosophy

Ethics of Sensing

Hardware and software Interfaces designed to access virtual worlds have always acted as portals to the internet, and are becoming more complex and intelligent. Desktop computers, to laptops, mobile phones, watches, headsets, and sensors are embedded closer and closer to our bodies, objects, and built environment, adding new layers of context to the way we navigate the world virtually. The sensors we embed on our bodies and garments, in our transportation vehicles and urban landscapes, not only add an extra layer of information, but also paint a section of reality. The design of such systems is not an accident, and involves deliberate decisions that create experiences. Who decides what to see? Who gets to see it? And who owns it? If we expand our notion of seeing beyond vision, how will this decision shape the meaning of reality and truth for different communities and individuals? Yasaman argues that as we augment, embodying our virtual worlds in our physicality, extending our sensory apparatus to add, remove, or fundamentally change the materiality of our surroundings, we embark on a journey to design new realities, politics, citizenship, and network structures. No longer will the question “is this interface usable?” be enough, as the creators of such experiences define reality for others. 

About Me

Yasaman Sheri is a Creative Director and Designer. She is interested in Science, Technology and Society and the way humans dream and realize networked systems, objects and organisms. She is a Critic and Faculty at Rhode Island School of Design and Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design where she teaches Sensing and Augmentation from a critical perspective and guides students to sketch desired and undesired visions of future of augmentation. Yasaman was lead designer on the Mixed Reality Head Mounted Display for Microsoft Hololens core Operating System where she worked on sensors tracking the body and environment, Gestures, Voice and Spatial Interactions. She works with various organizations and companies to explore possible and becoming futures and most recently writes about the ethics of designing for augmentation. She is interested in how emerging technologies add, change and remove experiences, and works with groups outside of her direct field of design to engage social imagination, engaging minorities and greater public in the now and future of everyday interactions. In her spare time, she practices Persian calligraphy and reads Iranian Poetry.

Proposal Details

I am interested in exploring the way we reveal information to humans as we design new technological interactions online and offline. I am specially curious about interfaces that expose a level of control as well as engagement from different stakeholders. I would like to research, question, and even prototype ethical interfaces and access points. Today we use the terminology, metaphors, systems and ultimately interface features we call “blocking” “locking” “Making visible” “Authenticating” “Recording” “Add” “Submitting” “Accepting” — and all these interactions and actions have different ramifications. Some have different weight in the way it effects people’s lives and can produce different levels of anxiety depending on the context or the person involved. As we augment our interactions to reveal and hide, who might we include or marginalize, be it Public-Private interactions, Company-User interaction, Geopolitical Interactions, or simple Offline-Online Interactions. An interface designer has the obligation to create the boundary between what is revealed and what is not, what metaphors are used, and how to create meaning as well as “ease of use” - In my world, ease of use needs to move beyond consumption and intuitive inputs or natural user interfaces, rather to a new era of careful consideration for political, social and historical sensitivity.

I am specially curious about the questions I have briefly illustrated in this talk, where I outline the challenges of VR/AR Harassment, the ethics of “seeing” and ultimately sensing, and notions of citizenship and human rights manifested in visual interfaces.

Perceived Sense - Augmenting Design Interactions, Stanford University.

The biggest problem that I see in this area is how new technologies, sensors, systems, networks and software algorithms can dictate and define the way we live and interact.

Sketching Interactions, Facilitating social “dreaming”

The types of research methodologies I use include sketching prototypes, physical or digital, low tech and high tech (paper and spacial mock ups to understand ideas. larping/ ”going through the motions” to understand and simulate interactions, or designing new visuals, interactions, and virtual/physical mock ups that might use the actual sensors to explore their outcome)

But more than sketching interactions on my own, I am actually quite interested to sketch ideas and interfaces with the people at Berkman and other folks who may be marginalized or simply coming from a different perspective as well. My intention is to include voices, and empower diverse groups of anthropologists, scientists, researchers, law makers etc. to be active creators from the beginning and inform the interface and interaction design. I have done this in the past with different people of all ages, ethnicities, professions and feel comfortable and excited to explore it with critical thinkers and people who are deeply embedded in the work of ethical thinking and can contribute their knowledge of best practices in their field.

Law making, online citizenship/communities, rights, rules, making standard practices and fighting for justice is what my work will explore and I am deeply passionate to do that with Berkman affiliates and fellows.

I intend on reading, researching papers and interacting with Berkman folks to contribute to a body of writing in order to share my thinking and contributing my research publicly in the form of publishing. I would be interested to give workshops and curating public talks/panels as a way to engage the public about this area of work.

The areas of sensor hardware, biotechnological sensing/perception, and specifically Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality are ripe for this conversation and one of the reasons I left Microsoft Hololens was to explicitly write about the ethics in designing systems and interfaces for these spaces. While sensing can be agnostic of the area of technology (hardware, software, wetware)

Why Berkman, Why now…

I believe my writing and work has come to a point where collaboration, interaction and learning from and with lawyers, public and private policy makers, ethicists and anthropologists is not only desired, but crucial. I would feel irresponsible if I did not include and work with such experts and I have not found many organizations that intersect computing, internet and ethics in the way that Berkman Klein does. This makes the center very attractive to me and I wish to contribute my thinking, way of working back, as a on going and dynamic engagement.

What topics I am interested in Exploring:

I am interested in topics such as citizenship and human rights in virtual spaces. Legislation and Law around ethical practices in designing interfaces and revealing metaphors. I want to write and publish in this area with researchers and multidisciplinary participants. And finally, I would dedicate my time and research to Anthropology and History of Science Perspectives and Points to inform my work.

My skills uniquely suited for Berkman include:

Interaction + Interface Design

User/ Human Research

Human Computer Interaction

Knowledge about technicality and sensor systems and networks, having worked with Microsoft, GoogleX etc.

Augmented Reality ARMRVRXR

Making visual and interactive examples that can demonstrate bias or the notion being researched

Metaphors of User Interface

Prototyping with diverse communities

Social Dreaming through sketching with unique communities of different backgrounds

Hands on Workshops, Discussion and future making through sketching objects and imagining low-tech prototypes for high-tech/complex ideas

How my personal background can inform and influence your research

My Professional Work in between spaces
Such as West/East Science/Art Design/Ethics Hands-on/Theory

My unique ability to navigate and engage diverse groups of professions, levels etc.

Being a minority, global citizen, woman, from middle east

Sample Writing

001 Publication IEEE
002 Publication Ginkgo Bioworks 
003 Publication Mold Magazine