Where do we go from here? 🗺

A newsletter for tech makers searching for inclusion, equity, and resilience in an industry of exclusion, inequity, and exhaustion.

Hi, I’m Lauren 👋🏼

I’m Lauren Celenza (she/they, @laurencza, SA-LEN-ZA).

I’m an independent designer, writer, and researcher. I grew up in Southwest Ohio during the decline of the manufacturing industry and the rise of the Internet, witnessing tech’s power from a young age. When social services couldn’t provide the information and assistance that my family needed, big tech stepped in–from connecting my father to academic resources when he couldn’t access the library to helping my mother find a grant for cancer treatment when she had no health insurance to helping me apply for student loans when the guidance counselor wasn’t available to assist. The Internet helped my family, but it also recalibrated the dynamics of our relationship and exacerbated exclusion, division, and misinformation.

These experiences led me to question how the Internet is shaped and who shapes it, ultimately leading me towards a career in tech, where I worked as a Design Lead at Google and served as an initial member of the Alphabet Workers Union. Over the course of five years, I worked to make Google Maps more inclusive for motorbikes, public transportation, and communities new to the Internet, ultimately mapping out millions of previously excluded businesses, landmarks, addresses, and routes across the world. But during this time, I found myself interrogating my own power as a white, US-based designer working on a tool used by one billion people. In an effort to shift a powerful industry towards inclusion and equity, I sought out ways to build relationships and connect Google teams in the US, UK, and Australia to communities, city experts, local teams, and social impact workers across India, Indonesia, and Nigeria. I advocated for changes to Google’s incentive structures and product development process in an effort to cede power to people with lived experience. In 2021, I walked away from the experience with stories, lessons, mistakes, exhaustion, despair, and hope.

Currently, I listen and speak at universities and conferences on the importance of assessing one’s own positionality in the world when building technology, and I work with organizations across categories on projects related to inclusive and equitable design, Internet accessibility, and building deeper relationships with local communities, users, families, and experts.

About the newsletter 💌

As tech makers, how do we implement inclusive and equitable practices in a demanding, fast-paced, scale-at-all-costs industry? How do we practice resilience and resistance to do this work in a sustained way? Is it even possible to create a new map for shaping technology, one that acknowledges and challenges the exclusionary structures of capitalism and colonialism? Or are we too far off the map? This newsletter seeks to examine these questions, and hopefully, help us feel less alone in this work.

It includes a Q&A forum, personal essays, and resources, kept brief to respect your time, attention, and inbox. For the Q&A column, submit a question and we’ll explore how to bring practices of inclusion, equity, and resilience into our day-to-day work. I’ll also use this column to celebrate and support the work of historically excluded tech makers and communities, and post about upcoming online courses I’ll be teaching to help you put these questions into practice.

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