Call for Participation: Pivot 2020: Designing a world of many centers—Towards the Pluriverse Conference

20 Apr 2020 (All Day)

On March 11,  Tulane University announced that--like many universities in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak-- they were suspending classes on Tulane’s campus and cancelling larger University events for the rest of the spring semester.  Thus, we are changing the format of the Pivot 2020 from a conference in New Orleans to a one-day online conference on Thursday June 4th 2020. We will maintain the aims of building community, sharing and co-creating work in a series of online activities throughout the day. These activities will include large and small group discussions, webinars, writing sessions feedback and networking forums. A full schedule of the day will be available soon. Participants can still look forward to a joint publication of work that is presented at and co-created during Pivot 2020 of the most significant contributions. 

We are optimistic about the collaborations we can co-create, and of ideas being shared in June in order to shift design and design thinking to include a multitude of viewpoints and centers. 

This effort seems even more important in light of the challenges posed by global diffusion of a novel virus that has brought societies and economies to a halt. What next? 

The deadline for abstracts has been extended to April 20th, 2020, and the forms of participation have been expanded.

Presenters can participate in:

  1. Full paper Presentations - 10 minutes each
  2. Short presentations with 20 slides for 20 seconds each - 6 minutes total
  3. Coffee time sessions with 5 minute presentations
  4. A virtual gallery of curated images about a world of many centers

Each session will be followed by a discussion period. 

To participate as a presenter of a full paper, please send us a long abstract of 800 - 1000 words. To present in the short sessions or Coffee Time sessions, please send an abstract of 400 - 600 words. To participate in the virtual gallery please send a high quality image accompanied by a 200 - 400 word abstract.  We will send presentation guidelines to selected presenters on May 4, 2020. Please send contributions via email to no later than  April 20, 2020. 

Registration as a presenting or non-presenting participant will be via a Pivot 2020 Eventbrite link that will be available within a few weeks.

As before, presentations are welcome in English, Spanish, Portuguese and



Original post: 


What does a world of many centers look like? How might we get there?

The Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking (Taylor) at Tulane University together with the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society (DRS) invite you to join us in jointly reimagining a world of many centers. We are co-hosting a mini-conference and writing retreat in June 4-6, 2020 in New Orleans to encourage conversations around shifting centers, methods, epistemologies and ontologies.

We invite you to pivot the discussion of decolonization from an academic critical perspective to a creative and generative one: What does a world in which many worlds fit look like? What is needed to create this reality? Who is needed to create this? How does it operate?

Western Europe and, subsequently, North America have been viewed as the main focus of what is good, innovative and desirable —namely The Center. The rest of the world and its countless cultures, worldviews, ways of knowing and ways of designing have been peripheral to the main narrative of the world. As the movement to decolonize design gains strength, more diverse voices have been featured on the stages of the Center—including, for example, Indigenous voices, more people of color, and more people from countries from the Global South (not just predominantly white men from the Global North). In short, the Center is slowly starting to include people who have been excluded from the main narrative of design.

We believe, however, that the purpose of a radical design practice is not to fix the Center, but to help to create a world with multiple centers — in which many realities can co-exist. To refer to this world, we adopt the concept of the Pluriverse, proposed by Arturo Escobar (2017), inspired by a Zapatista dictum, that refers to a “world where many worlds fit”. The Pluriverse does not only refer to the immense diversity of worlds—of diverse ontologies and epistemologies— available on our planet; but also to the fact that these multiple worlds have been shaped and harnessed, oppressed and suppressed by the scientific, technological, and hegemonic forces of Colonialism and Modernity.

In design literature, we see two different notions of the term design: design as problem-solving and design as world-creating. In the relationship between the Center and its so-called periphery, the first notion tends to be the most noticeable, emphasizing design to address societal challenges. Yet design, in its essence, is not only about making things “less bad”, but about making something new. Design can be defined as the ability to imagine what does not yet exist and to bring it into tangible reality (Nelson & Stolterman 2012).


The aims of the conference are to:

  • Nurture, cultivate and connect changemakers through the Pluriversal Design community
  • Build and support a network of collaborators and allies with shared values
  • Connect across disciplines in the work of decentering mainstream practices
  • Share knowledge about how to decenter design practices
  • Create space for scholars who are often invisible: to offer support, greater visibility and recognition
  • Create conversations that are meaningful and generative
  • Decolonize /deconstruct the conventional academic conference model

What to expect

During the conference, participants will have the opportunity to be inspired by change leaders in New Orleans who are creating their own “centers” and disrupting the traditional narratives of their fields. The experience will include keynotes, workshops, networking, and field trips.

There will be opportunities for individual support with your draft manuscripts to get them ready for publication/dissemination; to connect with new people and ideas and to surface more generative partnerships; to continue design/research practices in the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group.

How to participate

We are inviting interested scholars to submit long abstracts, draft papers, or other scholarly work in progress to participate in this conference. During the conference we will also collaborate on joint publication of the work.

We will accept contributions in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Contributions are welcomed from a wide range of disciplines: design studies, social sciences, policy and planning, anthropology, critical theory, history and other fields.

We also welcome a variety of contributions — such as case studies, theoretical reflections, visual presentations, and methodological considerations — as long as the work considers a world of many centers and the relationships between these many centers.

Submissions may address one or more of the following themes:

Strengthening centers at the margins

  • Moving the Center
  • Widening the Center
  • Connecting multiple centers
  • Teaching across centers and margins
  • Unlearning oppression
  • Building bridges
  • Global/local challenges
  • Building empathy across centers
  • Alternative modes of practice - between “centers” and “margins”.

The deadline for submissions is March 30, 2020 11:59 PM CST. Please submit applications by email to:

How to participate:

Face to Face

Pivot 2020 will take place June 4th – 6th, 2020 at Tulane University in New Orleans.

A nominal registration fee ($200) will cover the cost of lunch and transport/field trips. Participants will be expected to pay for their own airfare to New Orleans and 3 nights of local accommodation and meals outside of the conference program.

Can’t join us in person?

We still want to hear from you! We are aiming to co-publish, and therefore, even if you can’t join us face to face, this call can be considered a Call for Chapters. So please contact us if you still want to be part of the conversations. We will have regular online discussions with the participants of this mini-conference.

Organizing Committee

Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel, Tulane University,

Dr. Renata Marques Leitão, OCAD University

Dr. Maria Mater de O’Neill, Rubberband Design Studio Prof. Michele Washington, Fashion Institute of Technology

Dr. Laura Murphy, Tulane University

Dr. Maille Faughnan, Tulane University

Samantha Fleurinor, Tulane University

20 Apr 2020 (All Day)

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