On the Grounds of Solutionism: Ontologies of Blackness and HCI

Cunningham, Jay; Benabdallah, Gabrielle; Rosner, Daniela; Taylor, Alex
ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction

Why is the solution the end point to a problem? While many in HCI and design have examined the impulse to solve problems–the solutionist or techno-solutionist mindset–we examine the logic that binds the solution and the problem together as a pair. Focusing on the timely and consequential problem of systemic racial injustice, we think through the paradoxical possibility that the pairing of the problem and solution (so often treated as the default in design and HCI) perpetuates the very conditions we seek to improve. With Calvin Warren’s profound Afro-pessimism, we recognize how the tools used to solve structural inequities around Black life are constructed with inequities themselves. The problem-solution, therefore, is a dead end. We use this paradox as an invitation to rethink ongoing efforts to seek equity and justice more broadly, setting out a fragile but hopeful path for HCI and design.