Archives for category: Design

Call for Papers: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, Cardiff University, 28-31 August 2018

Elusive landscapes of ‘design’ in the city 

Session convenors: Gabriele Schliwa (University of Manchester) and Robert Cowley (King’s College London)

Although design was historically associated with the form of industrial and commercial products (and with the professional field of ‘urban design’), processes of ‘design thinking’ and the conceptual language of design have become commonplace in many spheres of practice and governance. In line with Richard Buchanan’s early understanding of design thinking as a ‘new liberal art of technological culture’ (Buchanan 1992), varied design processes are now advocated and applied across fields as diverse as public service delivery, democratic institutional decision-making, corporate management, international disaster relief, and even military operations research.  This long-term trend has significant implications for urban space, not only in relation to governance approaches and new types of citizen engagement, but also in, for example, the development of infrastructural innovations, experimental and grassroots initiatives, the implementation of sustainability agendas, and the spread of digital/’smart’ urbanism.

This panel aims to critically and constructively engage with emerging modes of governing and reshaping urban space and social relations through the lens of design.

The scattered and elusive landscapes of design in the city we seek to explore include:

  • Design processes that follow ‘the concept of co-‘ (Bason 2014) such as co-design, co-creation, co-production or collaboration and are often concerned with ‘citizen engagement around urban issues’ (Balestrini et al 2017)
  • Design concepts previously used in the digital design sector and/or in the context of business innovation (e.g. service design, experience design, interaction design, interface design, human-centred design)
  • Ways of thinking including design thinking and resilience thinking (Cowley 2017) or creative thinking
  • Shifting identities, often from private towards public subjectivities, e.g. consumer to citizen, user to participant or claims about ‘citizen-centric’ goals (Cardullo and Kitchin 2017)
  • Workshops, events or projects  such as e.g. innovation labs, living laboratories (Evans and Karvonen 2014), civic hackathons or jams in support of smart or sustainable city agendas
  • Cybernetic urbanism and aspects of environmental control (Gabrys 2014, Halpern 2015, Krivý 2016, Luque-Ayala and Marvin 2017)

Considering this variety of logics and activities, we would like to invite position papers or short provocations based on related empirical work, personal experience or theoretical considerations. These will be followed by a wider discussion. Contributions could address (but are not limited to) the following themes:

  • Rationalities – What does design as a mode of governing promise and what does it deliver in practice?
  • Contexts – In which contexts is ‘design’ as a mode of governing being mobilised today?
  • Levels of facilitation – Who is hosting, facilitating and participating in ’design thinking’ or ’designerly’ initiatives?
  • Governing spaces – What are its spatial dimensions and spaces of inclusion and exclusion?
  • Power – What are the mechanisms of empowerment and disempowerment?
  • Historical perspectives – What are the origins of ‘governing through design’ approaches and current drivers behind this trend?
  • What theorisations and conceptualisations do we need to better understand the power relations and implications of design or designing in cities?
  • How can we maintain a critical, reflective, and constructive practice when designing with people becomes part, or even the focus of our academic work (particularly under funding schemes aimed at impact and innovation)?
  • What are its opportunities, limitations or dangers when attempting to steer society into more desirable directions?

Please submit your proposed title and abstract (200 words) to gabriele.schliwa@manchester.ac.uk and robert.cowley@kcl.ac.uk by Friday 9th February 2018.

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Journal of resilience

A new publication to announce.  But first, some background…

A while ago, I started noticing that the word ‘design’ and the concept of ‘design thinking’ seemed to be everywhere. I wondered if it was just me – but I was particularly struck that I so often seemed to hear the word ‘design’ used in contexts where I expect to hear about ‘plans’ and ‘planning’. I slowly got the sense that we seem collectively unwilling to assert our ability to shape the future – but, at the same time, I wasn’t sure quite why we are so keen to be ‘designing’ things instead. Why now? I realised in any case that I didn’t really understand what ‘design’ meant.

Problematically, there seemed to be no widely accepted overall theory of design to turn to. Or, rather, there were lots of individual perspectives on the subject, often related to particular areas of design practice. And most of these seemed to claim that theorising design as a whole is not possible.

Following on from that, I and some colleagues organised an exploratory conference on the topic of ‘Design after Planning’ last year  It went rather well overall (and you can watch some of the videos here), but it threw up more questions than it answered.  So, I started slowly reading up on design theory, and have now pulled together some of my thoughts in the introduction of a ‘forum’ on Resilience and Design, published today in the journal Resilience.

The introduction is followed by four short essays, by Clive Barnett, Tania Katzschner, Nate Tkacz, and Filip De Boeck, each touching on design-related issues in different ways. The abstract and table of contents are shown below.

The forum as a whole is rather like a collection of papers in a conference panel: loosely connected rather than prepared in close collaboration.  But we hope this approach will be generative of new thinking and connections, rather than seem incoherent. An experiment, at least.

If you’d like to read the publication, but can’t access it, please get in touch so that I can send you a copy.  50 free eprints (first come, first served) are also available from this link: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/aIX3rSjGWTeEdr3gjG29/full

 

Cowley, R., Barnett, C., Katzschner, T., Tkacz, N. & De Boeck, F. (2017). Forum: Resilience & Design.  Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses. Advance online version, DOI: 10.1080/21693293.2017.1348506

 

Abstract:

This forum aims to encourage theorists of resilience to engage more closely with different aspects of design theory and practice. The introduction outlines a series of largely unacknowledged parallels between resilience and design, relating to the valorisation of processes over states, the loss of faith in ‘planning’, the ambivalent status of boundaries and interfaces, and open-ended political possibilities. Four short reflections then follow on various design-related topics: the significance of the ‘wicked problem’ in contemporary urban planning and design, and the urbanisation of responsibility; design’s potential to repoliticise and engender new forms of responsibility; the significance of the digital interface; and the condition of everyday life in the ‘unplanned’ post-colonial city. Readers are invited to build on or refute the explicit and implicit links made between resilience and design in the various forum contributions.

 

Contents:

 

Resilience and design: an introduction

Robert Cowley (Department of Geography, King’s College London)

 

Planning as design in the Wicked City

Clive Barnett (Department of Geography, University of Exeter)

 

Design, responsibility and ‘Staying with the Trouble’: rethinking urban conservation in Cape Town

Tania Katzschner (School of Architecture, Planning & Geomatics, University of Cape Town)

 

In a world of data signals, resilience is subsumed into a design paradigm

Nathaniel Tkacz (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick)

 

‘The Hole of the World’: designing possibility through topography in Congo’s urban settings

Filip de Boeck (Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa, KU Leuven)

 

London, 14 July 2017

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