Get involved with Global Health SIG, Pluriversal Design SIG and Design Pedagogy SIG see more
DRS SIG News: CFPs, Meetups and More
DRS SIGs have been busy planning and hosting events, despite this unusual and rather chaotic academic year. There are lots of ways to engage with Global Health SIG (GHSIG), Pluriversal Design SIG (PluriSIG) and Design Pedagogy SIG (PedSIG) and participate in design research activities.
GHSIG has been developing a crowdsourced repository of COVID-19 Public Health messages and information set by official national, regional and international bodies. This will be a source of information that researchers, public health authorities and policy makers can access and forward to communities around the world. The team is also analysing the data for a multinational and multicultural visual and language communication analysis of COVID-19 public health messages. They've started the analysis and expect to develop guidelines and a white paper on best practices. You can view the repository here.
GHSIG also has a call for abstracts for a Little book on Global Health: Special Edition on COVID-19. They’re looking for proposals for short case studies on health and wellbeing—the deadline is coming soon on 15th October. The book will be published in 2021 and will also include outcomes from the GHSIG Conversation at DRS2020.
As for PluriSIG, they’ve been running a bimonthly book club that reviewed and discussed Escobar’s Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy and the Making of Worlds and Santos’ Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide in September. The selections for October are Pluriverse: A Post-development Dictionary (16 Oct) and Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30 Oct). Visit Eventbrite to view the schedule or register.
Finally, PedSIG has been buzzing with activities including bimonthly Distance Design Education Meetups and a discussion on the Futures of Design Education planned for 29 October. PedSIG is also organising their next biennial conference Learn X Design 2021, which will be hosted by Shandong University of Art & Design in September 2021. Full paper, workshop and case study submissions are due in March.
The DRS is also looking to expand the SIG program. Contact email@example.com to learn more.
Pivot 2020 aimed to generate learning and conversations around the Pluriverse see more
Conference Report: Pivot 2020
Pivot 2020 invited participants to consider how to design a ‘world of many centers and voices.’ We asked questions like: What does a world in which many worlds fit look like? What is needed to create this reality? Who is needed to support this change? Pivot 2020 aimed to highlight diverse voices, perspectives, epistemologies, and ontologies with an emphasis on design and social innovation.
The event was initially planned as an in-person conference in New Orleans, USA. This location felt appropriate given the city’s diversity, history, and proximity to the Caribbean, Latin America and ‘other worlds.’ Then COVID-19 arrived and forced us to change our plans and adapt to an online format. We worked through the disruption and uncertainty of the pandemic and invited people to join us for a day of virtual conversations. We always wanted to host a more inclusive conference and the online format helped us achieve this goal! It allowed for greater diversity of participants: we had presenters and stories from many countries—e.g., Indonesia, India, Kenya, Brazil, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Japan, Canada, several European countries, the Middle East, and the United States.
Above: Screen shot of participants from across the world
The event took place on 4th June 2020 on Zoom. We had a full day of presentations and discussions—8 sessions and more than 40 presenters stretched over 11 hours. Since we chose not to have parallel sessions, everyone watched the presentations together and engaged in conversations. The sessions covered themes such as ‘the Pluriverse is now,’ ‘decolonizing design education,’ ‘unlearning hegemony,’ ‘digital and emerging tech,’ ‘decentering futures,’ and more.
There was significant debate among the presenters and audience about the need to create epistemologies and methods for design theory, practice and education that can help design move away from its traditional Eurocentric approach and move toward more plural forms of participation. Conference attendees proposed new courses for a pluriversal design education, challenged each other to diversify their references, and shared suggestions for a more diverse reference list. These ideas and discussions will be made available through the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group.
One of our biggest challenges when planning the event was to simulate a conference atmosphere. In our view, the social and interpersonal aspect at conferences is almost as important as the presentations—it enables new connections, meaningful encounters between people thinking along the same lines, and the formation of a community with shared interests. To support this social aspect, we divided Pivot 2020 participants into occasional breakout rooms to chat and meet each other. We also had a very active chat-box where some of the most meaningful connections were formed. We were positively surprised by the level of engagement in these chat-box discussions!
Many of the presenters sent us pre-recorded video presentations. These videos are available on the DRS YouTube channel and the Taylor Center’s webpage, enabling further post-conference engagement. Pivot 2020 conference proceedings will be published later this year.
Dr. Renata M. Leitão, Conference Co-chair and Pluriversal Design SIG Convenor; Instructor, OCAD University
Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel, Conference Co-chair and Pluriversal Design SIG Convenor; Associate Director for Design Thinking for Social Impact, Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation & Design Thinking, Tulane University
Is 'Design so White' in Emerging Critical Design Studies? see more
Reflection on Keynote Debate 3: Whose Design?
As a follow-up to DRS2018, we invited select conference participants to reflect on the Keynote Debates and related conversations that took place during the conference. The article that follows responds to debate 3 - "Whose Design?: Sharing Counter Perspectives on Dominant Design Gazes." It was prepared by Renata M. Leitão (OCAD University) and Lesley-Ann Noel (Stanford University), track chairs of "Not Just from the Centre - Multiple Voices in Design" at DRS2018.
Whose Design? Is 'Design so White' in Emerging Critical Design Studies?
Throughout the DRS2018 keynote debates, a huge screen behind the speakers and the moderator showed questions asked by the audience, allowing for a certain participation in the debate. And still, the most asked question was not addressed for two days: “why is design so white?” As co-chairs of the track "Not Just from the Centre — Multiple Voices in Design," this question is central to our work. Not that we believe that design is itself white – as the practice of world-making, it is ubiquitous and widespread –, but mainstream narratives of what constitute “good and valid” design excludes non-Eurocentric perspectives.
Even if that hot question was not addressed for two days, we could see a clear change in the demographics and interests of DRS delegates, compared to previous conferences. The rooms of critical tracks – such as "Designing for Transitions" and "Design, Research and Feminism(s)" – were completely crowded, contrasting with the empty rooms of a few more mainstream tracks. Critical conversations ranged from "A Feminine Approach to Design" to "Indigeneity and Mestizaje in Latin America." Around us, many discussions between delegates involved encouraging the participation of designers from the global South in DRS conferences. Indeed, we both played a part in the process of encouraging more designers of color to participate when we proposed our track.
The question “why is design so white?” was addressed in the third Keynote Debate “Whose Design?: Sharing Counter Perspectives on Dominant Design Gazes” by Andrea Botero (moderator), Sadie Red Wing and Arturo Escobar. Dr Botero asked an important question: "for who is design so white?" Because from her perspective as a Latin American scholar who collaborates with other critical design scholars, design does not seem that white. Inspiring presentations from Indigenous designer Sadie Red Wing and from Prof. Arturo Escobar unveiled counter perspectives. Escobar argued that a field of transnational critical design studies is currently emerging. After three days of encouraging conversations about countering Anglo/Eurocentrism and oppressive perspectives in design among DRS delegates, we have to agree with Escobar.
But still, developing transnational critical studies in design has some challenges. It is noticeable that the question “why is design so white?” was only addressed in the keynote debate between two Colombian academics and an Indigenous academic. The participants of the first two Keynote Debates where not able to address the most asked question. Are only non-Anglo/Eurocentric designers capable or expected to address this kind of question? We hope not, as this question is relevant for the role of design in building and transforming our world and its social structures. Could white design scholars unlearn design Eurocentrism? Could North American and European designers learn from different perspectives and be able to constructively participate in the transformation of design research and practice? We have to believe the answer is a “yes.” And the promising conversations among DRS delegates need to be transformed into actions and new structures that allow for the unlearning of Eurocentrism in design.
Escobar has asked how we can develop non-Eurocentric design work (Escobar, 2018). Design conferences are not known for being diverse spaces. It is not unusual to go to a design conference and count the people of color on one hand. Therefore, one of the first steps to answering this question would be to ensure that these spaces are more diverse. This DRS conference was inspiring because it was evidently more diverse and conversations about diversity were loud. The organisers even managed to facilitate distance participation of several presenters including Adolphe Yemtim from Burkina Faso and Octaviyanti Wahyurini from Indonesia. If we want to talk about diversity, multiple voices in design and constructing a non-European design imagination, we have to address the systemic challenges and barriers that make participation of designers from outside ‘The Centre’ so difficult. Both Yemtim and Wahyurini, among other presenters, faced visa challenges. Another participant withdrew his paper when he considered the cost of participation compared to his cost of living. The hegemony of the English language in design research also creates another barrier to participation. The conversations and participation at the DRS2018 were inspiring, but the challenges faced also remind us that so much more needs to be done.
Renata M. Leitão, OCAD University
Lesley-Ann Noel, Stanford University
Escobar, A. (2018). Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical interdependence, autonomy, and the making of worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.
Radical, liberatory, intercultural and pluralistic conversations about design see more
Introducing the Pluriversal Design SIG
We’re thrilled to announce a new DRS Special Interest Group (SIG) — Pluriversal Design (PluriSIG). The group promotes radical, liberatory, intercultural and pluralistic conversations about design. PluriSIG is convened by Lesley-Ann Noel and Renata M. Leitao, and includes organising committee members Tanveer Ahmed, Xaviera Sanchez de la Barquera Estrada and Nicholas Baroncelli Torretta.
Read more about this group and their mission on the PluriSIG page, and contact the convenors to get involved!
The group has already initiated a discussion on the meaning of Pluriversal Design. Noel and Leitao have also announced upcoming projects for the group:
- PluriSIG Book Club
- Weekly group readings of relevance to the SIG, followed by discussions on the SIG discussion page. The first book is Design for the Pluriverse by Arturo Escobar. Other authors on the reading list include Mario Blaser, Isabelle Stengers and Boaventura de Souza Santos.
- Decolonizing Design Reference Lists
- This project will co-create design reference lists including authors from a variety of cultures and countries.
- Pluriversal Design Resource Library
- This project aims to collect and share resources that promote pluriversality, such as anti-oppression tool-kits, guidelines for community engagement, anti-design saviorism toolkits etc.
- Discussions and Interviews
- Vimeo channel with curated interviews about design practices, epistemologies and design research methods that challenge concepts of modernity and development, and highlight the work of design researchers from outside Europe and North America.
- PluriSIG Book Club