School of Art, Media, and Technology

Meet the Awesome People in DT: Matthew Willse

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The Design and Technology MFA program is full of energetic, unique individuals who work together to think, inspire, and create with technology. This series, by journalist Rachel Signer, provides a glimpse into some of the people in the DT division of the Art, Media, and Technology program who work that make DT such a great place to work and study. This one is about first-year student Matthew Willse, who has embarked on his studies with extensive experience doing web work for social justice non-profits.

What year are you and what program are you in? What did you do in college?

I’m a first-year in the D&T MFA. I went to Reed for college and dropped-out. I was studying sociology. And then I went to Massachusetts College of Art, where I did sculpture and a bit of graphic design. I’ve been in New York City for the past 7 or 8 years doing design, web development, branding, for non-profits and social justice groups. I came here because I needed a sabbatical and an opportunity to enhance my skills, and evaluate where I want to go with my own work. I’m picking up some skills, like data-visualization, which is something I can bring back to those same clients.

What is your favorite thing about being a student at Parsons?

I’m still waiting to see what I will get out of this program. It’s given me a chance to explore ideas and tools that I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of years, but haven’t had time to delve into.

What do you like, and not like, about living in New York City?

Living in New York you meet so many people that are doing interesting things, and paving their own way to do those things. That’s inspiring. But it can be exhausting, the level of stimulation is great but sometimes it can be too much. It requires you to get away once in awhile – upstate, or out to Fire Island.

What are you working on right now that is exciting to you?

Occupy Wall Street popped up recently, so it’s been interesting to talk about globalization and tech interventions, and have this very flash-point of activity that involves both of those things. It’s something to study and investigate, and also a place that provides opportunities for interventions. One thing I’ve been designing is a mobile tool to help people during direct actions, to make them more effective and safe, by allowing them to plot and share different things, like access to a bathroom, or locations of police arrests. Right now it’s in the design stage.

What’s something unique about your background the influences how you work?

My work is very goal-oriented. I’m driven to create things that help, rather than hurt. The number of organizations that I’ve consulted with that are doing advocacy work allows me to understand the complexity of designing solutions for people. It informs my process a lot.

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