W&L’s Mudd Center Announces 2023-24 Lecture Series “Ethics of Design” kicks off Sept. 21 with a keynote address by MIT Professor Danielle Wood.
Design has the power to shape our lives. Designers create products, systems, programs, policies, technologies and experiences, and often use their craft to address problems and make sense of the world around us. Because effective design can be invisible to those who consume and experience it, the Washington and Lee University Mudd Center for Ethics will ask how design thinking might address modern ethical dilemmas in its 2023-24 series on the “Ethics of Design.”
“Design thinking shapes our experiences in fundamental ways, even when it is essentially invisible to us,” said Karla Murdock, director of the Mudd Center. “To design is to create, fashion, execute or construct something according to a plan and in a manner that expresses a particular vision or optimizes certain outcomes. In a technological world in which our intentional and unintentional design choices can have outsized effects, it is the right moment to contemplate ethical design.”
The public lecture series will bring to W&L distinguished speakers from various disciplinary and professional backgrounds to shape a community discussion about the ethical contexts and implications of design. The speakers throughout the academic year include authorities spanning a range of expertise, including sustainable development, bioethics, adaptive technologies, architecture, human-centered design and community-engaged art. Among the questions to be considered: How should design solutions be informed or constrained by their potential environmental, cultural and social costs? What methodologies can allow designers to meaningfully assess the ethical contexts and implications of their work?
In addition to public lectures, the Ethics of Design program will feature several interactive events, including workshops focusing on ethical decision-making in organizational contexts and best practices in dramatic portrayals of violence on stage. W&L will join organizations across the globe to create a “Before I Die” wall, a community project that uses shared public space to reimagine our relationship with death and one another. The Mudd Center and Leyburn Library will present a Human Library community reading event, designed to foster dialogue and the opportunity to “unjudge someone.”
Learn more about this year’s theme by visiting the Mudd Center website.
The lecture series kicks off at 5 p.m. on Sept. 21 in W&L’s Stackhouse Theater with a keynote address by Danielle Wood, Director of the Space Enabled Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The lecture, titled “Design for Sustainability on Earth and in Space,” is free and open to the public.
Wood’s scholarship uses space technology to inform sustainable development on Earth. At MIT, she works with local and national governments, non-profits and entrepreneurial firms to identify opportunities for space technology to improve public services and solve global problems. Her research lab considers how satellites might be used as instruments of justice and applied to projects that advance the common good, such as improving water sources or preventing the next famine.
“Danielle Wood’s work exemplifies how an interdisciplinary approach and innovative thinking can truly change the world. She integrates her training in engineering, policy and societal development to design new applications for satellites that can serve environmental health and social equity,” said Murdock. “Her lecture will launch the Ethics of Design program by showing how very big picture thinking, plus intentionally designed collaborations, might translate into real solutions for modern day dilemmas that we face.”
An MIT alumna, Wood’s background combines research and hands-on creation, including satellite design, earth science applications, systems engineering and technology policy. Prior to returning to MIT as a faculty member, she held positions at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) headquarters, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Aerospace Corporation, Johns Hopkins University and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs.
For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit the series webpage.
The Mudd Center was established in 2010 through a gift to the university from award-winning journalist Roger Mudd, a 1950 graduate of W&L. By facilitating collaboration across traditional institutional boundaries, the center aims to encourage a multidisciplinary perspective on ethics informed by both theory and practice. Previous Mudd Center lecture series topics have included Global Ethics in the 21st Century, Race and Justice in America, The Ethics of Citizenship, Markets and Morals, Equality and Difference, The Ethics of Identity, The Ethics of Technology, Daily Ethics and Beneficence.