If Women Had Designed Facebook

by cv harquail on September 30, 2010

If women had designed Facebook, maybe it wouldn’t feel …

So cold.
So rectangular.
So static.

So emotion-less.
So linear.

So blue.
So hierarchical.
So rigid.

So ego-centric.
So boring.

If women had designed Facebook, maybe it would be:

More welcoming.




Aesthetically inviting.


Maybe there would even be some music.

Reflecting on Facebook’s underlying values

Have you ever thought about why Facebook doesn’t quite do it for you? How, as a platform, a structure, and procedure for “connecting”, it doesn’t quite create for you the feeling of being ‘with’ your friends, psychically and emotionally?

As a person who seldom, if ever, gives a ‘thumbs up’   when a virtual hug is what’s needed, I often wonder what’s missing from Facebook.

Design reflects values.

Everything ever designed reflects the worldview, the values, and the priorities of the people who designed it. Technology, and software in particular, reflects the implicit values of the people who design it. If designers value speed over warmth, economy over richness, or squares over circles, the software reflects these values.

Design recreates values.

Software also recreates in our social world the values its designers put into it, because the design of the software shapes and constrains the ways that we use it.

Facebook was designed for a particular purpose. If you are to believe the spirit ( if not the true story) behind the founding of Facebook, as shown in the The Social Network, Facebook was designed to replicate online the social experience of some socially maladroit male geeks.

So, we should be concerned about how the implicit values, social arrangements, and social solutions that are literally built into the Facebook software itself continue to influence how we interact across that platform.

It’s not just a question of design space that isn’t explored, although that’s part of my concern.

More,  I’m wondering how online social interaction might be different, and in so many ways better, if social media platforms we commonly use were intentionally designed to reflect feminist, collective, liberatory, inclusive, socially-justice oriented, values.

Imagine a feminist Facebook. An “Alt-Facebook”.


If we had software designed to reflect a different set of values, ‘Alt- Facebook ‘ might be:

— Less Spock and more Kirk.
— Less like Powerpoint and more like “UnPresenting“.
— Less about “me” and more about “Us”.

I don’t have a full picture of what a social networking site that reflected a different world view might look like. I need some help imagining what it could be.

What kind of online community would we create for ourselves, if we started with a different set of values?

Stay tuned: Monday’s post addresses Design by Feminists vs. Designing for Women: Politics vs Marketing.

Be Sure To Read this terrific analysis/review of The Social Network by Melissa Silver at Women and Hollywood !!

See Also:
Facebook for Women vs. Facebook Designed by Feminists: Different vs. Revolutionary

The Feminist Business Bloggers’ Lament
When will Social Business become Social Change business?

Interwoven 28 image, Attribution Some rights reserved by gurdonark


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