Jon Wasserman
Karl Ward
Surya Mattu

The Racist Door

A door that racially profiles entrants with a strong bias against tall, white men.

Political Uses of Social Media

The Racist Door appears to be an ordinary door; however, depending on the physical characteristics of the person attempting to open the door, opening the door might be easy, difficult, or even impossible. This is because the door has a hardware and software system embedded into it that makes the door harder to open for anyone who is white, tall, or male. And if you happen to be all three, you will need someone who is not all three of those things to open the door for you. The political message here should be apparent to the door's users, particularly repeat-users who see others who can open the door without difficulty. Your physical form causes discrimination for or against you all the time; however, members of privileged groups are not commonly discriminated against in everyday life. The Racist Door seeks to rectify that inequality in a direct and personal way.

The Fall 2012 Applications class had several great discussions about race and gender inequality that started us to thinking about how to discuss these topics in direct and meaningful ways. In particular, the essay "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is" and Baratunde Thurston's talk during the class were provocative entry points into these issues for the class. After some discussion in Applications (in class, but also on the class blog, and outside of the class entirely), we wanted to take this discussion further by moving it away from the abstract. The Racist Door was initially conceived as a Physical Computing project, but it was shelved temporarily because it did not exactly fit the primary topics that the Physical Computing class seeks to explore. But within Political Uses of Social Media, the Door came back to life as part of our final project for that class. Our final project is the creation of a site called Disruptsy, which shares plans and kits for everyday objects that have political voice.

Regular people who might not consider the effect of invisible power structures on everyday life. Politically motivated people (e.g. makers, socially minded innovators, political dissidents) who wish to find new ways to discuss politically contentious topics.

User Scenario
Tall, white man tries to open door, cannot get in. Requires assistance. Other users who have characteristics more favorable to the Door (e.g. not white, not tall, not male) will have less trouble, or no trouble at all.

It’s made of a life-size, free standing door and door frame. Users will step up to the line as instructed, wait for the camera to detect their attributes, and when the Signal Light turns from RED to GREEN, they may pass through the door (when possible).

- Use a kinect/camera to view potential entrants

- OpenTSPS used to identify people in front of door

- Processing/JavaScript for backend interface

- Mechanical Turk style identification of entrant(s)

- Arduino controlled resistance mechanism attached to door which adjusts resistance according to physical characteristics of entrant

Humor that takes on issues of race must be extremely focused on framing in order to succeed. People seem to understand and react strongly to this object, and it is a great conversation starter.