Skip navigation
Hardcover | Out of Print | 168 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 25 figures | April 2012 | ISBN: 9780262017381
Paperback | $25.00 Short | £19.95 | 168 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 25 figures | August 2015 | ISBN: 9780262528221
eBook | $18.00 Short | April 2012 | ISBN: 9780262302111
Mouseover for Online Attention Data

Adversarial Design


In Adversarial Design, Carl DiSalvo examines the ways that technology design can provoke and engage the political. He describes a practice, which he terms “adversarial design,” that uses the means and forms of design to challenge beliefs, values, and what is taken to be fact. It is not simply applying design to politics—attempting to improve governance for example, by redesigning ballots and polling places; it is implicitly contestational and strives to question conventional approaches to political issues.

DiSalvo explores the political qualities and potentials of design by examining a series of projects that span design and art, engineering and computer science, agitprop and consumer products. He views these projects—which include computational visualizations of networks of power and influence, therapy robots that shape sociability, and everyday objects embedded with microchips that enable users to circumvent surveillance—through the lens of agonism, a political theory that emphasizes contention as foundational to democracy. DiSalvo’s illuminating analysis aims to provide design criticism with a new approach for thinking about the relationship between forms of political expression, computation as a medium, and the processes and products of design.

About the Author

Carl DiSalvo is Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Institute of Technology.


“There's a new HCI in town, and Carl DiSalvo is one of its most thoughtful proponents. Lively, timely, provocative and inspiring, Adversarial Design sets out a manifesto for engaged design practice that moves beyond usability and sees interactive technology as an active site of civic and political discourse.”
Paul Dourish, University of California, Irvine; author of Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing
“In Adversarial Design, Carl DiSalvo discusses a fascinating group of projects that enable agonistic activity within the democratic process. DiSalvo’s authoritative account of this work brings valuable new insights to the vital question of how art, design, and technology inform each other in unprecedented ways to achieve political ends.”
Victor Margolin, Emeritus Professor of Design History, University of Illinois, Chicago
“This is a great little book about critical design, making design matter again, in practice and public space. In arguing for adversarial design of computational artifacts, Carl DiSalvo goes far beyond the artistic gallery exhibition approach. What is suggested is design that critically opens up controversial and contested issues in society. Such design is openly political, embracing public contestation and dissensus as fundamental aspects of a vibrant democracy.”
Pelle Ehn, Interaction Design, Malmö University, Sweden
Adversarial Design is a sharp and insightful exploration of design’s largely untapped potential to be truly political, and is essential reading for any designer striving to move beyond the limitations of current design thinking, discourse and practice.”
Anthony Dunne, Head of the Design Interactions Programme, Royal College of Art