Ann Shivers-McNair

Bio: Ann Shivers-McNair

I am an assistant professor and director of professional and technical writing at the University of Arizona. I am so grateful that my entry into UX was through my collaborators and friends Dr. Laura Gonzales and Clarissa San Diego, two brilliant women of color who are committed to work that is both just and innovative, and from whom I learned that good design starts with accountability to communities.

Reflection: Relational UX

Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the joy of learning from the mentors and interns in the Kapor Center funded project Building a Collaborative Network to Support Women of Color in User-Experience and Technology Design, led by Dr. Laura Gonzales at the University of Texas at El Paso, with fellow mentors Dr. Joy Robinson of the University of Alabama at Huntsville and Clarissa San Diego, Founder and CEO of Makerologist in Seattle. We spent the first several weeks of our collaboration establishing foundations, strategies, and practices for UX work and learning about and supporting the interns’ projects.

From Laura’s wise framing and leadership of this project, to Joy’s beautiful explication of agile and lean workflows as they intersect with user experience (UX) design, to Clarissa’s brilliant strategies for facilitating and managing remote collaboration, I have learned so much about good design, collaboration, and project management. And from the interns, Estefania Castillo, Bibhushana Poudyal, and Tetyana Zhyvotovska (all of the University of Texas at El Paso), and their wonderful projects, I have learned creative and innovative ways to engage and expand UX strategies to do social justice-driven work across borders, cultures, communities, and interfaces. If these women are the future of UX—and they are—then this is a future I’m excited for.

I’m excited about the relational UX work happening on multiple levels in our group. When I say “relational UX,” I’m drawing on Indigenous frameworks to emphasize accountability and to honor the onto-epistemologies of the land on which I am an uninvited settler. As Shawn Wilson (2008) explains, “The shared aspect of an Indigenous axiology and methodology is accountability to relationships (p. 7).” Certainly these relationships are among humans, but they are also among humans and non-humans, as Angela Haas (2012) argues in her decolonizing work on race, rhetoric, and technology: “Technology is not what does the work, it is the work--and that work relies on an ongoing relationship between bodies and things” (p. 212). This accountability to relationships is at the core of the work I see my colleagues in our group doing, and it’s why I’m excited for the socially-just future of UX my colleagues are bringing about.


Haas, A. M. (2012). Race, rhetoric, and technology: A case study of decolonial technical communication theory, methodology, and pedagogy. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26(3), 277-310.

Wilson, Shawn. (2008.) Research is ceremony: Indigenous research methods. Fernwood Publishing, Black Point, NS, Canada.