Tara McPherson – Feminist in a Software Lab, Difference + Design


Harvard University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0674728943, English, 280 pages, 2018, USA

Over the years the encounter between software’s dynamic qualities and the visualisation of information has been nurtured by entities of different natures: commercial, technological, aesthetic, and political. Among the many attempts to develop an original grammar, with contextual content, the Vectors Lab has developed a unique trajectory, experimenting in a shared territory between designers, scholars and artists. With the goal of “creating a space for sustained practice” Tara McPherson here reconstructs the Lab course, and the production of the Vectors online publication through the Scalar multimedia authoring platform (both aimed at scholarly content). The evident collaborative aspects couple the emotive and transparent quality of design, pushing the industrial constraints, and privileging feminist, critical race theory and new materialist types of content. With the challenge of discovering “how we might play an argument as we play video games, or immerse ourselves in scholarship as we do in films”, Vectors was handling “the retrieval powers of the database”. This is not a mere archival book, or a contribution to the history of computing and visualisation of information (although it might appropriately be). It proves itself to be a collection of ideas about information design that would greatly benefit scholars, designers and publishers alike.