Alexis Lloyd, Creative Director of the New York Times‘ Research & Development Lab, visited Journalism + Design on Thursday, March 12, to discuss the work she does and why it’s important for journalism. A Parsons alumna, Alexis spends her days at the R&D Lab experimenting with new technologies and prototyping future concepts for the industry — a job that sounds anything but boring.
— Heather Chaplin (@heatherchaplin) March 12, 2015
Speaking to more than 60 people at The New School’s Wollman Hall, Alexis described some of the experiments she’s done at the Times, such as building a “listening table” that hears, understands, and records conversations — but only when you want it to. “There are a lot of ways that these approaches could be put to really creepy ends,” she said. “And let me assure you — the future is going to be creepy.”
At the same time, Alexis said, part of her job is figuring out how to design technologies that “empower and respect people, rather than surveil and disenfranchise them.” Designers should respect users, and create systems that people can mold to their needs — like shoelaces.
“Shoelaces are these things that are adapted for needs that range from functional optimization to social signaling,” Alexis said, noting how shoes can be laced differently for specific activities, like hiking or football, or to indicate things like military association, country of origin, or gang membership.
“It’s not just about being able to adapt something to one’s needs, but being able to play a system with skill and expressiveness,” she said. “And this is what I think we should aspire to.”
Watch a few highlights from Alexis’s talk below, or watch the full video here.