Who gets to situate design? Reflections from engaging with diversity in design.
Nicholas Baroncelli Torretta
Heather Wiltse (Umeå University)
Xaviera Sánchez de la Barquera (Umeå University )
Paper short abstract:
Current unsustainability crises and the need for design to more meaningfully engage with 'the social' require situating design more consciously. As in our current project of engaging with Sami people, this raises questions of who gets to situate design, and how to learn to design and live together.
Paper long abstract:
The current unsustainability crises have called on design to pay greater attention to the social, political, cultural and environmental dynamics of designing. These include the processes, relations, consequences, and response-abilities of design. As design practices continue to move out of the studio and engage with 'the social', the character of these design practices and their relation to the contexts in which they operate come into focus. The basic orientation of design—to approach with an intention to bring about change—can strongly activate and reveal the colonial ethos of design in these contexts, and raise questions of how to navigate different and even incommensurable value systems and types of knowledge. These issues are brought into sharp relief in our current project of working with Sami people in a project that is part of an advanced professional industrial design education. The project is motivated by an ambition to challenge ourselves and our students to open up to change through engaging with diversity. These engagements have required those involved to rethink their worldviews, values and understanding of knowledge. Situating design in this context, we must also ask: at what point does situating become imposing? Who gets to situate? Who are we to suggest something to this community as outsiders? Who gets to decide value? What does design have to offer? And, more hopefully: how might we shift from imposing our methods and values to a more transformational process of learning to design (and live) together, negotiating and sharing through an interweaving of partial perspectives?