Our Lady of Technology Tarot Cards inspire learners, especially women, at any stage of their design process to consider how emerging technologies could provide solutions within their problem space. They are both a collaborative game and a tool to help guide the future. We have reimagined the 22 Major Arcana found in traditional Tarot Card decks to represent the dominant archetypal technology trends that are influencing life as we know it.
In our class at Harvard Extension School and when running design education workshops with various clients we have observed that learners, especially women, often get quite intimidated by emerging technologies. They see their lack of intricate computer science understanding of how the technology works as a barrier to being able to brainstorm potential applications or they default to their male peers.
We designed these cards to help our students find a familiar, collaborative, and entertaining entry point to understanding how emerging technologies can relate to their problem space. We want to provide radical access to designing with emerging technologies.
Our Lady of Technology Tarot Cards empower learners not only to see the future of emerging technology, but to design it. By seeing people who look like them in the cards, we hope that women feel more inclined to participate confidently.
A few years ago we were in a design thinking class, and one of our students said to us "I can't come up with ideas about how AI would help with this because I am not a computer science major like James." Not long after that a participant in a client workshop said that she would "see if one of the guys from IT could come help them brainstorm technology solutions."
The more we dug into it the more we saw that many of our students, often the women, felt unable and excluded from talking about or brainstorming with emerging technologies. We noticed that in collaborative settings, women tended to step back when technology became a focal point of an activity and default to their male colleagues or peers.
This was a problem for us on two levels. The first very practically was that we wanted our learners to be able to infuse emerging technology into their ideation process when coming up with human centered ideas in their design work. The second was that if women are not engaging in designing with emerging technologies then the technologies of the future won't represent women, their needs, and their perspectives.
We wanted to design a tool that would help learners engage with emerging technology in a collaborative and tactile way. And we wanted to put women at the center of emerging technology and futures design. We prototyped several different ideas, including having women from our team lead the emerging technology brainstorming sessions, and using images of women in the aid materials, such as slides or videos. We looked at the academic literature surrounding creating inclusive STEM environments for women. However, we also went looking for analogous ideas that brought together future's design, idea generation, and women. It was in our exploration of the historical roles of women as Seers, Fortune Tellers, Witches, and Faro Ladies, that we found women have historically been at the forefront of futures design and the application of past era technologies.
Since 1500 AD, Tarot Cards have been used for collaborative games, social engagement, and more recently as a tool to give guidance and help anticipate the future, and traditionally the owners of Tarot Cards are women. Common to most practices or games of Tarot is a 22 card section called the Major Arcana. These cards are often considered the "trump" cards of the deck. Each one depicts a scene with literal and symbolic elements that represent the overarching archetypal themes of the deck. As their popularity spread across Europe, and then the world, different custom decks have been developed to meet the specific needs of different practices.
Our Lady Technology Tarots draw upon these traditions. They are both a collaborative game and a tool to help guide the future. We have reimagined the 22 Major Arcana to represent the big archetypal technology trends that are influencing life as we know it. Our Tech Cards provide definitions, characteristics and use cases of each of these emerging technologies:
Blockchain, RFID, IoT Sensors, Digital Colleagues, 3D Printing, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, Computer Vision, Mixed Reality, Virtual Reality, Clean Meat, Drones, Tangible User Interface, Natural User Interfaces, Bioinformatics, On-Demand Virtual Workers, Autonomous Vehicles, Exoskeletons, Clean Energy, Neural Networks, Robotics.
And finally, here is how to play:
1. Assemble your group of collaborators.
2. Ask yourselves what is the problem frame or decide the "how might we question" that you need to address.
3. Write it down (in big letters, ideally) and put it in front of you.
4. Open your tarot cards.
5. Give the cards a thorough shuffle.
6. Cut the cards into three piles and then put them into one pile again.
7. Now you are ready to start the reading as you have jazzed up the cards.
8. Spread the cards on the floor or table.
9. Pull one card from the deck and read it out loud.
10. Start brainstorming its relevance or application to the problem frame.
11. Push further, wilder, and crazier.
12. Put that card to the side, select another and repeat from 9.
These are our rules to the game, but remember, rules are meant to be broken! It may start with some nonsense, pushing beyond the edge of believability and feasibility, but eventually, it yields something great.