Global Grad Show kicks off with diverse student innovations

Updated 12 November 2019

Global Grad Show kicks off with diverse student innovations

  • The 5th edition of Global Grad Show at Dubai Design Week kicked off on Tuesday with a showcase of more than 150 student innovations from around the world
  • The most diverse edition to date features projects from more than 100 universities

DUBAI: The 5th edition of Global Grad Show at Dubai Design Week kicked off on Tuesday with a showcase of more than 150 student innovations from around the world. 

The most diverse edition to date features projects from more than 100 universities, including established names such as the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Goldsmiths, alongside new entrants from the Philippines, Colombia and Kuwait.

That diversity is something that was extremely important to the show’s new curator, Eleanor Watson.

 “The quantity is just a reflection of our aims for diversity, which I think is tremendously important because there is a tendency in design showcases to always end up showing material from the same schools and the same regions,” she told Arab News. “And that’s painting a very particular picture of the design landscape that’s not actually reflective of all of the work that’s out there and of different people’s lived experiences and what they expect from design.”

This year’s curatorial themes will explore the spheres where innovation can create a positive impact and Watson chose to split the show into areas named The Human; The Home; The Community; The City and The Planet.

 The aim, according to the curator, is all about “showing different systems of scale and showing what scale those designs operate on, just as a way to help people make sense of the incredible variety of designs and how it impacts all of our lives in very different ways.”

Graduate projects from 43 countries — in the fields of design, science, technology and engineering — are on show at the exhibition, which runs until Nov. 16.

 “That’s part of what’s very nice about (it) — seeing work from students in parts of the world you maybe would not get the chance to visit and to be exposed to issues that you didn’t realize were out there,” Watson said of the conscious push to ensure diversity.

And it’s not just about showing off their work, students and professors descend on Dubai for the opportunity to meet with similar minds from across the globe.

“There is this sense of creating a global design network, where people can share ideas and can share problems or challenges and see how they can help each other,” Watson said.


South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

Updated 12 July 2020

South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

DHAHRAN: An online backlash has forced the matrimonial website Shaadi.com to take down an ‘skin color’ filter which asked users to specify their skin color using descriptors such as fair, wheatish or dark. The filter on the popular site, which caters to the South Asian diaspora, was one of the parameters for matching prospective partners.

Meghan Nagpal, a Toronto-based graduate student, logged on to the website and was appalled to see the skin-color filter. “Why should I support such archaic view [in 2020]?” she told Arab News.

Nagpal cited further examples of implicit biases against skin color in the diaspora communities – women who are dark-skinned are never acknowledged as “beautiful” or how light-skinned South Asian women who are mistaken as Caucasian consider it a compliment.

“Such biases stem from a history of colonization and the mentality that ‘white is superior’,” she said.

When Nagpal emailed the website’s customer service team, she received the response that “this is what most parents require.” She shared her experience on a Facebook group, attracting the attention of Florida-based Roshni Patel and Dallas-based Hetal Lakhani. The former took to online activism by tweeting the company and the latter started an online petition.

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“Now is the time to re-evaluate what we consider beautiful. Colorism has significant consequences in our community, especially for women. People with darker skin experience greater prejudice, violence, bullying and social sanctions,” the petition reads. “The idea that fairer skin is ‘good’ and darker skin is ‘bad’ is completely irrational. Not only is it untrue, but it is an entirely socially constructed perception based in neo-colonialism and casteism, which has no place in the 21st century.”

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“When a user highlighted this, we were thankful and had the remnants removed immediately. We do not discriminate based on skin color and our member base is as diverse and pluralistic as the world,” a spokesperson said.

“If one company starts a movement like this, it can change minds and perceptions. This is a step in the right direction,” said Nagpal. Soon after, Shaadi.com’s competitor Jeevansathi.com also took down the skin filter from its website.

Colorism and bias in matrimony is only one issue; prejudices are deeply ingrained and widespread across society. Dr. Sarah Rasmi, a Dubai-based psychologist, highlights research and observations on how light skin is an advantage in society.

The website took down the skin filter following backlash.

“Dark skin tends to have lower socio-economic status and, in the US justice system, has been found to get harsher and more punitive sentences.

“These biases for fair as opposed to dark skin comes from colonial prejudices and the idea that historically, light skin has been associated with privilege, power and superiority,” she said.

However, in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter protests, change is underway.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will be discontinuing its skin whitening creams in Asian and Middle Eastern markets, and earlier this month Hindustan Unilever Limited (Unilever’s Indian subsidiary) announced that it will remove the words ‘fair, white and light’ from its products and marketing. To promote an inclusive standard of beauty, it has also renamed its flagship Fair & Lovely product line to Glow & Lovely.

“Brands have to move away from these standards of beauty and be more inclusive so that people – regardless of their color, size, shape or gender – can find a role model that looks like them in the mass media,” said Dr. Rasmi.