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Why am I here?

I think it’s a good idea for all of us involved in this ini­tia­tive to share our per­spec­tives and moti­va­tions about it. I hope it would spark a wider and crit­i­cal dis­cus­sion on the many issues and con­cerns under­ly­ing this idea.
First, as a cit­i­zen of the devel­op­ing world, I have been at the receiv­ing end of ‘design solu­tions’ that have been con­ceived in (and often for) other socio-cultural-political con­texts. Don’t get me wrong, much of it could be attrib­uted to the devel­op­ment per­spec­tives and poli­cies of my own coun­try. How­ever, to me, that only empha­sizes the var­i­ous forms and for­mats in which colo­nial­ism per­sists and prop­a­gates itself: I like the Stan­ford Ency­clo­pe­dia of Phi­los­o­phy def­i­n­i­tion of the term — “Colo­nial­ism is a prac­tice of dom­i­na­tion, which involves the sub­ju­ga­tion of one peo­ple to another.” (full text at http://​plato​.stan​ford​.edu/​e​n​t​r​i​e​s​/​c​o​l​o​n​i​a​l​ism) And it is this essen­tial process that I object to.
Sec­ond, as a designer and edu­ca­tor, I have wit­nessed (and been involved in) the del­uge of ‘ethno­graphic design’ ini­tia­tives (mostly spon­sored by large multi­na­tion­als) that aspire to devel­op­ing design solu­tions that cater to the ‘bot­tom of the pyra­mid’ mar­ket seg­ments. I have an issue with the basic assump­tion here that a set of cul­tural and con­tex­tual probes (not all of them method­olog­i­cally robust) are con­sid­ered ade­quate to be fed to a remote (in more than the geo­graph­i­cal sense) design team, to develop appro­pri­ate solu­tions. Even more than the method­ol­ogy, it is the pol­i­tics that I find wor­ry­ing. In my view, design world­wide (includ­ing in India, I may add) is remark­able for its rather naïve and out­dated pol­i­tics — and cer­tainly does not seem to have engaged with devel­op­ments in social, cul­tural and eco­nomic the­ory of the last two or three decades (for all the talk about inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­ity). Hence, my instant attrac­tion for the ‘rever­sal’ pro­posed here — even if it is taken merely as a spoof.
Third, as one who believes in the poten­tial of design as a dis­ci­pline to enhance our qual­ity of life (yes, I still do!), I sup­port any idea or ini­tia­tive that I con­sider would inform, enrich and expand the dis­ci­pline towards incor­po­rat­ing greater com­plex­ity, crit­i­cal­ity and sophis­ti­ca­tion in its prac­tice. I believe this ini­tia­tive affords such a promise, even if in a lim­ited or par­tial sense. I’ve talked else­where about un-yoking the dis­ci­pline from its iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with and sub­mer­gence within busi­ness and indus­try in this con­text.
Finally, I would like most of all to see this ini­tia­tive feed into and evolve into the broader dis­cus­sion on the future of human­ity (and the planet that we live on), that includes diverse voices and views, thereby throw­ing up many more visions and mod­els for the future than the hand­ful (even that is stretch­ing it) that we seem to have currently.

3 Comments

  • 1 xieyuting wrote:

    We are a group of stu­dents from China, and have great inter­est in this project. I would like to know if there is a limit on the num­ber of group members?

    May 6, 2010 at 7:08 am Permalink
  • 2 carolina wrote:

    Hi! Yes, you can work in teams as large as you want, as long as you feel com­fort­able with many peo­ple in a team :) !

    May 6, 2010 at 5:11 pm Permalink
  • 3 iohana wrote:

    Sub­ject: Propo­si­tion of Model

    Salu­ta­tion.

    My name is Ioana-Noemy Toma. I am a trans­la­tor, and the pres­i­dent of the eco-civic asso­ci­a­tion “Pro vita uni­ver­sale”, from Roman, Romania.

    In this let­ter, i sub­mit to your atten­tion the propo­si­tion of a new model of soci­ety, which could solve bet­ter the devel­op­men­tal, social and envi­ron­men­tal problems.

    The his­tory of the ter­res­trial life and of the humankind shows that life, with all the real­iza­tions, is unique, irre­peat­able, com­plex and val­oric, price­less. The liv­ing beings always tried to improve their per­sonal and social lives. The humans, with a supe­rior capac­ity of knowl­edge and explo­ration, under­stood more of the world they live in. Philoso­phers, sci­en­tists, politi­cians, artists, from the antiq­uity to the present, were inter­ested by a ratio­nal “com­mon good”. Today, thanks to the progress of the sci­ence, the con­ser­va­tion and the ame­lio­ra­tion of the life is more fea­si­ble. Good exam­ples of the human genius are the eco­log­i­cal admin­is­tra­tion of the Lord Howe Island, the vol­un­tary work in NGO’s like Mercy Corps, or free qual­ity prod­ucts, like Linux’s.

    I pro­pose to the sci­en­tific and civic com­mu­nity a model of a ratio­nal human soci­ety (logoc­racy), based on the teach­ings of this his­tory, which should be adopted in order to ethi­cize the human exis­tence on Earth.

    The ratio­nal human soci­ety will be founded on the ratio­nal­ity, under­stood as the supe­rior capac­ity of humans to act ben­e­fi­cially, with the respect of the gen­eral moral prin­ci­ples : peace, jus­tice, lib­erty, respon­si­bil­ity and help, for the pro­tec­tion and the ame­lio­ra­tion of the life on the Earth and in the Uni­verse, by edu­ca­tion, bal­ance, per­fec­tion­ing, con­ser­va­tion, progress, coöper­a­tion and healthy rest. This first value, which implies along with the rea­son the mod­er­a­tion and the com­pas­sion, is needed in order to pre­serve the pat­ri­mony of human and uni­ver­sal val­ues, and to real­ize ben­e­fi­cial activ­i­ties in sci­ence, eco­nom­ics and cul­ture. The exis­tence of the other forms of life (min­er­als, plants, other ani­mals) will be respected, avoid­ing their destruc­tion and ensur­ing their con­ti­nu­ity as much as possible.

    In the ratio­nal soci­ety, it will be ensured for all the cit­i­zens, decently : a house and a gar­den at the level of fam­ily or social group, legal and charge­less (free) edu­ca­tion, the free access to ben­e­fi­cial and ratio­nal­ized (non-excessive for the health and the envi­ron­ment) activ­i­ties, in use­ful domains, to be real­ized vol­un­tar­ily, accord­ing to the indi­vid­ual capac­i­ties and the social needs, the sci­en­tific, objec­tive, non-monetary, computer-aided eval­u­a­tion, con­ser­va­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of the nat­ural and arti­fi­cial resources, to nat­ural and legal per­sons, accord­ing to nor­mal needs, in mod­er­ated lim­its, and the sup­port in case of sick­ness, dis­abil­ity or death. Money and other dam­ag­ing arti­facts, by the inutil­ity, the waste, the fal­si­fi­ca­tion and the cor­rup­tion they imply, will be banned. The prod­ucts will be stored and dis­trib­uted sci­en­tif­i­cally and chargelessly.

    The nat­ural and legal per­sons will act in an inde­pen­dent and coöper­a­tive régime. Every­one will have the oblig­a­tion to pre­serve the ratio­nal­ity of his/her activ­i­ties, in con­di­tions of health and efficiency.

    Humans will no more be con­sid­ered as resources, but as intel­li­gent man­age­r­ial actors (i.e. per­sons who act) on the Earth and in the Uni­verse. The human activ­ity will be cor­rectly eval­u­ated, by a wise list of qual­i­ta­tive (non-numeric) and numeric indicators.

    The sci­en­tific knowl­edge will respect the impor­tant cri­te­ria of truth­ful­ness and benef­i­cence of the affir­ma­tions, because the false­ness is a fraud, and a source of errors, and because the malef­i­cence endan­gers the life. As there are con­stant and evolv­ing or improv­able truths, respec­tively goods, the sci­en­tists will state the degree of reserve they give to the truth­ful­ness, respec­tively benef­i­cence, of their works.

    The cul­tural, reli­gious and occult soci­eties will be nor­mal­ized, in the sense of the ratio­nal inter­pre­ta­tion of their pat­ri­mony, rec­og­niz­ing the false­ness of their myths, proven by the sci­en­tific means, and of the real­iza­tion of ben­e­fi­cial activ­i­ties, with the respect of the ratio­nal­ity, the real­ity and the science.

    The immoral, use­less, waste­ful of capac­i­ties and resources, toxic, destruc­tive, will be rec­og­nized as dan­ger­ous for the humans and the envi­ron­ment, and will be for­bid­den. All the per­sons impli­cated in such activ­i­ties will be reed­u­cated, coun­seled and sup­ported to real­ize ben­e­fi­cial activities.

    In the ratio­nal soci­ety, every­one will have the pos­si­bil­ity to thrive, and to con­tribute to the well-being of the soci­ety, and of the sur­round­ing nature. This model is not fic­ti­tious, it is real­is­tic and nec­es­sary, and it can be real­ized by good, science-based laws.

    Please, send me your obser­va­tions con­cern­ing this model. You would par­tic­i­pate to the project of its sci­en­tific and civic devel­op­ment ? And you could rec­om­mend me other pos­si­ble collaborators ?

    I am look­ing for­ward to your response.

    Wishes of well.

    Ioana-Noemy Toma

    August 24, 2010 at 7:16 am Permalink

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