Unintended by Design: On the Political Uses of “Unintended Consequences”

  • Nassim Parvin Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Anne Pollock King's College, London
Keywords: unintended consequences, technological utopianism, god trick, angel trick, feminist killjoy, feminist STS


This paper revisits the term “unintended consequences,” drawing upon an illustrative vignette to show how it is used to dismiss vital ethical and political concerns. Tracing the term to its original introduction by Robert Merton and building on feminist technoscience analyses, we uncover and rethink its widespread usage in popular and scholarly discourses and practices of technology design.

Author Biographies

Nassim Parvin, Georgia Institute of Technology

Nassim Parvin is an Associate Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research explores the ethical and political dimensions of design and technology.

Anne Pollock, King's College, London

Anne Pollock is a Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at King's College London. She is currently completing her third book, Sickening: Racism, Health Disparities, and Biopolitics in the 21st Century.


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01 Aug 2020
Considering Concepts