Design Culture Salon 20: What are the values of design and making in China?

Friday 22 April, 2 – 4 pm
Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall


How is the maker movement changing design sensibilities in China? What new models of education and expressions of creativity are arising? How do craft, DIY, hacker culture and design interconnect in China? How does China’s vast manufacturing base and high technical skills influence design? What government policies are being employed to promote design?


Chair:  Professor Guy Julier, University of Brighton/Victoria and Albert Museum

Zara Arshad, founder-editor Design China blog
David Li, Director Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab
Lit Liao, Founder Litchee Lab, Shenzhen
Tom Saunders, Senior Research, Nesta

Free event.
Book here:

This event is organised as part of China’s Creative Communities: Making Value and the Value(s) of Making an AHRC/Newton Fund research project led by Kingston University, Falmouth University and the University of Brighton. For more details please contact Cat Rossi.

Zara Arshad
is the founder-editor of the Design China blog. A former resident of Indonesia, Syria and China, Arshad has worked for Icograda Beijing, British Council in China and Beijing Design Week, and studied on the RCA/V&A MA History of Design programme as the 2013-2015 Friends of the V&A Scholar. She is currently a research assistant at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

David Li has been contributing to open source software since 1990. He is a member of the Free Software Foundation, committer to Apache projects and board director of ObjectWeb. In 2010, he co-founded XinCheJian, the first hackerspace in China to promote hacker/maker culture and open source hardware. In 2011, he co-founded Hacked Matter, a think tank on makers and open innovation. In 2015, he co-founded Maker Collider, a platform to develop next generation IoT. He is also the director of Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab.

Lit Liao is the founder of Litchee Lab, one of the most international makerspaces in Shenzhen providing space, digital equipment, workshops and courses for all ages, from kids to adults. She has rich experience in the field of maker education, including open source education product design and curriculum development. Currently Litchee Lab is working with different types of schools in Shenzhen, from primary to high schools and from private to public, to create open and encouraging spaces on campus. Before starting Litchee Lab, Lit worked at Seeed as product manager of education products and led the re-design of Seeed best-selling education products, such as the Grove Starter Kit and Mixer.

Tom Saunders is Senior Researcher at Nesta, a charity that promotes innovative solutions to social challenges. His work focuses on helping governments learn from innovations around the world, with particularly the use of digital technologies to address urban challenges. Tom also leads on Nesta’s research and engagement with China and is co–author of Made in China: Makerspaces and the search for mass innovation.

Guy Julier is the University of Brighton/Victoria & Albert Museum Principal Research Fellow in Contemporary Design and Professor of Design Culture. He is the author of several books including The Culture of Design, recently published in a 3rd revised edition. From the mid-2000s, while continuing research in the contemporary sociology and political economy of design, Guy Julier has also turned his attention to design activism and social design. His currently completing a book entitled ‘Economies of Design’.


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Shenzhen Salon

What are the values of making and makerspaces?

Thursday 17 March, 2016, 3pm-4:30pm
Hosted by SZOIL
Sino-Finnish Design Park International Conference Room (B4-113, No.3 Shihua Road, Futian Bonded Area, Futian District)

What are the values of making and makerspaces?

Further information. 


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Reflections on Design Culture Salon 19: How does the design studio support emergent design practices?

About 20 years ago, a group of undergraduate design students I was teaching in Leeds gave a presentation about their idea of the design studio of the future. It was relentlessly utopian in a kind of beachworld, surfer-dude way. They imagined the designer working out of a fancy campervan, travelling the planet, going to exotic places while maintaining their practice with global clients via the (then nascent) internet.

Looking back, their forecast couldn’t have been wider of the mark. While there has been some flexibilisation of the geographical relationships between designers and clients, I would seriously contend that, at the same time, the struggle for space has become all the more urgent. By this, I mean being able to pay the rent on a studio, but also configuring oneself into the ‘right’ topographical networks to support professional practice. This may include insisting on being among the creative milieu (London’s Shoreditch, Hong Kong’s West Kowloon, Manchester’s Northern Quarter and so on) and/or being close to your potential clients (see Reimer et al 2008 on this). Whatever the priority, the key issue is that space isn’t going away (see Massey 2005 on this). Design is not getting deterritorialized. And, as we found out later in this Salon, understanding what goes on in those studio places is getting more complex and varied.

Our line-up for this event was as follows:

Chair: Dr Lucy Kimbell, Director of Innovations and Insights Hub, University of Arts, London.

Professor Daniel Charny, Professor of Design, Kingston University and Director at From Now On
Dr Ignacio Farias, Assistant Professor at the Munich Center for Technology in Society and the Department of Architecture of the Technishe Universität München.
Yiyun Kang, V&A Artist in Residence
Professor Peter Lloyd, Professor of Design, University of Brighton
Dr Alex Wilkie, Senior Lecturer in Design, Goldsmiths, London



l. to r.: Daniel Charny, Ignacio Farias, Lucy Kimbell, Peter Lloyd, Alex Wilkie, Yiyun Kang

l. to r.: Daniel Charny, Ignacio Farias, Lucy Kimbell, Peter Lloyd, Alex Wilkie, Yiyun Kang


Kicking off the evening’s debate, our guest chair, Lucy Kimbell noted two current vectors in design that may be effecting how we conceive of the studio. The first is in the intensification of designerly approaches. This is where, for example, design is beginning to be found in new locations and conjunctions. One of these that Lucy Kimbell has been closely involved in has been in the use of design methods in policymaking, specifically in the UK Cabinet Office PolicyLab. The second vector has been in a ‘de-intensification’ (or is that ‘extensification’?) of design. Examples here would include the rolling out of design toolboxes such as the Nesta DIY Toolbox or in OpenIdeo. Thus, on the one hand, more precise design methods are under increasing exploration for specific circumstances while, on the other, access to more generalized and schematized ways of designing are being provided to a wider set of actors. In either case, and many others, the places where design is being undertaken are becoming more varied. This in turn has ramifications for what we think the design studio might be like.

Daniel Charny followed on by pursuing what the studio means. He made a case for it as a comfort zone – somewhere where, at its centre, material experimentation and new thought processes can take place that are core to design work. That said, design studios have become less private. This is partly to do with digital networks that in various ways give access of different sorts to the studio both to clients and a wider public. In the former case, things like Skyping allow quicker and iterative interchange of ideas between client and designer. In the latter case, designers’ websites are more likely to show design at work. [Elsewhere I have argued that this becomes performative. Citing examples, I have argued that client visits to the studio sometimes involve the self-conscious showing and playing-out of ‘creativity’ (after all, this is what the client is buying).] Equally, studios have increasingly become shared environments with several individual designers or set-ups sharing resources. This is, not least, a result of the rising cost of studio space. Ultimately, Daniel Charny made a case for the studio culture rather than the studio environment as being the most important.

Alex Wilkie was asked about Studio Studies:  Operations, Topologies and Displacements, edited by Ignacio Farías and him, that they were launching. Why write it now? Alex Wilkie explained that in the disciplinary field of Science and Technologies Studies there has been close examination of the science laboratory. In particular, this has been carried out by Karin Knorr Cetina. Here, the focus has been on the lab as an inscription device:  its material and social configuration produces certain forms of laboratory practice, and therefore outcomes. However, STS and then social and cultural theory have, in Alex’s opinion, completely ignored the studio. Perhaps the only exception to this has been Donald Schön’s 1985 book The Design Studio. This was produced as a commission by the Royal Institute of British Architects and focused on architectural practice rather than design. Further, in its framing it continued to reproduce certain well-known ‘master (masculine) – apprentice’ power relations. [I would, however, highly recommend AnneMarie Dorland’s excellent essay on routinization in the design studio in Design and Creativity that Liz Moor and I edited in 2009. (Apologies for the blatant boosterism here.)] So, it is time we thought more deeply about how the design studio functions as an inscription device.

Peter Lloyd picked up on the traditional power relationships of ‘master-apprentice’ that goes on in studio culture. Even when it’s all meant to be very open and participatory – when the Post-It notes start to fly – there is still someone in charge of the process. Aside from this tradition, Peter Lloyd focused on the role of language in explaining or obfuscating studio practice. Thus he talked about the painter George Shaw, recalling a phrase written about his work, ‘he imbues his meticulous records with a melancholy nostalgia’. Peter asked whether this is really what Shaw was doing at the point of creation or, even, whether this was actually possible! The record of the studio in action is always imprecise and the issue is to focus, as Alex Wilkie had also argued, on what was actually happening there, not on what people says happens. You can read more of Peter’s thoughts on this in his own blog.

Yiyun Kang reflected eloquently on her experience of working in digital arts and design. As a  V&A Artist in Residence, her work has involved digital projection mapping, interacting, in particular, with the museum’s cast courts. The ‘performance’ of the work itself is in adding layers of light to pre-existing objects. In this, and much of her other creative practice, she is working in site-specific ways and so, for example, the V&A itself becomes the bigger studio to her work. In more conventional terms, for Yiyun Kang, the traditional studio may be important as a site of exploration but, importantly, it also functions as the place of documentation. Her work is very spatial and ephemeral and thus the studio becomes the place where the outcomes and processes of her work are archived and analyzed. This is an important point in that it reminds us that studios fulfill multiple roles. Many of these roles go beyond the straightforward conception of the studio as a cradle of creative outputs. Studios do other things as well.

Ignacio Farías pushed this discussion of creative work taking place beyond the studio. He spoke of the experience of creating a kind of nomadic studio with the artist Mirja Busch. Even on a road trip, the issue of storage became a central challenge. They found themselves increasingly ‘living off the land’, drawing from resources they discovered through the journey rather than what they had brought with them. The gear they were carting around seemed increasingly irrelevant to what they were doing and yet they still felt the need for it to be there. Wherever the studio takes place – even if it doesn’t exist in the traditional four walls – it is subject to various contingencies. It is a place of happening. Later, Ignacio Farías reinforced this by stating that this doesn’t necessarily mean that this kicks notions of exploration and creative freedom out the window. The studio — and all its social and material knick-knackery — can provide the conditions for these. It’s just that every practice comes with a particular world. This means that a designer is working on something, but is also working on the conditions that make that working at the same time.

The multiple reference points for what really is a design studio unfolded through the evening’s discussion. It’s difficult to keep up with and, I would forcefully add, impossible to make overarching generalizations about what the design studio might be or, indeed, what studio culture may involve.

A bunch of us at the V&A are getting increasingly interested in what’s happening in Shenzen in China. Salon regulars, Daniel Charny, Cat Rossi, myself and others will be taking the Design Culture Salon to Shenzen in March 2016 to build dialogue with practitioners, commentators and entrepreneurs there. It seems that there are some fascinating developments going on. Design, in that traditional consultant form exists but much more embedded and complex relationships with manufacture and making are also at work. Watch this space.

The intensification and de-intensification of design involves new spatial arrangements. But I won’t be expecting the imagined, globe-trotting surfer-dude designer to become a significant actor in any of this. Arguably, much of design is far too weighty and material, rough-edged and friction-dependent, people-centric and social practice-oriented to ever be deterritorialized. The reality of the design studio in all its manifestations has a long way to go.



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Design Culture Salon 19: How does the design studio support emergent design practices?

Friday 19 February, 6:30pm,
Clore 55, Victoria and Albert Museum

 For many designers and design educators, the studio still forms the key site for design practice and learning and is often said to facilitate creative processes, not least collaboration and making. Our understanding of precisely how or why the studio can support these forms of labour, however, remains relatively vague. Moreover, the activities that currently constitute contemporary design practice have moved beyond the ‘object’ and into seemingly immaterial practices, such as social design and design thinking. So, how does studio support these new kinds of processes? How can we contextualise and understand novel instantiations of studio? How can sociological or anthropological approaches to studios inform our understanding of situated studio practices?

This Salon will address these questions, among others, through commentary on the new book: ‘Studio Studies: Operations, Topologies & Displacements’, edited by Ignacio Farías and Alex Wilkie. This collection of essays, published by Routledge, examines the role of studios in the production of cultural artefacts, not least those brought into being by designers – a remarkable blind spot in social and cultural research, the accounts of which remain dominated by the ‘creativity’ of privileged individuals or the stimulation of creativity through urban clustering.

Chair: Dr Lucy Kimbell, Director of Innovations and Insights Hub, University of Arts, London.

Professor Daniel Charny, Professor of Design, Kingston University and Director at From Now On
Dr Ignacio Farias, Assistant Professor at the Munich Center for Technology in Society and the Department of Architecture of the Technishe Universität München.
Yiyun Kang, V&A Artist in Residence
Professor Peter Lloyd, Professor of Design, University of Brighton
Dr Alex Wilkie, Senior Lecturer in Design, Goldsmiths, London

This is a free, drop-in event. No need to book.
Directions to Clore 55 here. 


Professor Daniel Charny
is an internationally recognised curator, strategic consultant and lecturer in the field of contemporary design. His specialist background as an industrial designer puts him in a unique position in the curatorial field, as does his strategic and curatorial practice applied in the context of design education. Charny curated major shows for the Design Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum including ‘Power of Making’ one of the most popular exhibitions in the V&A’s history. Involved in strategic consultancy he led on the Content and Interpretation strategy for the Design Museum London contributing to their successful bid for HLF major projects funding in 2012. Charny has been involved in design education for 20 years including between 1998-2012 at the Royal College of Art where he was Senior Tutor on the Design Products Department.

Dr Ignacio Farías is a senior researcher at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) and holds a PhD from Humboldt University Berlin. In the field of urban studies, Farías has conducted ethnographic research in three main areas: a) cultural consumption, tourism, and city-marketing; b) cultural production, studio practices, and creative industries; and c) urban disasters, city reconstruction, and governmentality. His publications include Urban Assemblages. How Actor-Network Theory Changes Urban Studies (2009) and articles in journals such as Mobilities, Space and Culture, CITY, and EURE. Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Urbano y Regionales.

Yiyun Kang was born in Seoul, Korea. She holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Seoul National University’s Painting department and a Master in Fine Arts from UCLA’s Design & Media Arts department. Upon completion of her MFA in the United States, Kang worked and taught in Korea for 3 years, subsequently moving to London, where she is currently working and pursuing a PhD at the Royal College of Art. Kang is internationally recognized for her projection mapping installations. Her work has been exhibited in a number of museums and galleries in Europe, Asia and the United States and she has taken part in several residency programmes, including that of Korea’s National Museum of Contemporary Art.

Dr Lucy Kimbell has spent much of her career on design’s fringes, intersecting with other disciplines and contexts including social innovation and policy. Before joining UAL Lucy was AHRC research fellow in Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office (2014-15) and principal research fellow at the University of Brighton where in addition she jointly led projects for the AHRC around social design. Previously Lucy was Clark fellow in design leadership at Said Business School, University of Oxford for five years, where she remains an associate fellow. Lucy co-founded one of the UK’s first digital arts groups and went on to work in digital innovation consultancy before joining academia. As an educator she has taught an MBA elective on design innovation at Said Business School since 2005. She also designs and delivers training in people-centred design for the UK Civil Service and contributes to UAL’s courses including CSM’s MA Innovation Management and its proposed MBA.

Professor Peter Lloyd is Professor of Design at the University of Brighton. His research looks at all aspects of the design process with a particular emphasis on the language used in design activity. He teaches in the areas of design methods, design thinking and design ethics. He is Associate Editor for the journal Design Studies and his research is based on interests that include design ethics, storytelling in the design process and design in the media. Prior to his appointment at the University of Brighton College of Arts and Humanities, Professor Lloyd held the post of Professor of Design Studies at The Open University from 2011 and was a senior lecturer between 2005-2011. Between 1999 and 2005, he was an Associate Professor at the Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands and a Research Fellow at Cranfield University between 1995-1999. You can read Peter’s latest thoughts on design at:

Dr Alex Wilkie is the Director of the MPhil/PhD programme in Design, Co-Programme Leader of the MA: Interaction Design and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process. He has been working at the intersection between design and science and technology studies (STS) for over sixteen years. Alex studied interaction design at the Royal College of Art and gained his PhD in sociology, an ethnographic study of user-centered design, at Goldsmiths. Alex was an original member of, a group who designed and developed the Issuecrawler, an online tool for tracing and visualising controversy on the web and has been a member of the Interaction Research Studio since 2006.


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Some Reflections on Design Culture Salon 18: Is Designing for Behaviour Change ‘Creepy’?

Falling in the midpoint between the return from the summer holidays and the Christmas period, this Salon was a popular one. In fact, it ended as standing-room only, even after going in search of more chairs. It was rammed.

Clearly, the idea of designing behaviour change (or ‘nudge’) is one that divides opinions. This is not just because of the big philosophical questions it strikes at such as individual agency v. social compliance. It is also about the limits of design and what should be prioritised in its practices. These are not necessarily a new questions. Behaviour change thinking really stepped up in the UK under New Labour, as Kevin McCullough of product strategy consultancy Plan had discussed in Blueprint magazine back in 2007. But it was high time we re-appraised nudge, designing nudge and design that nudges.

So, to return to Friday 20 November 2015, and this write-up, I’m going to depart from the usual template I use for the blog. My behaviour has been changed! This isn’t because of any design interventions that took place on the night. Rather, I was busy finding seats for late-arrivals and ended up jotting haphazard notes from the debate.

In broader terms, a set of background issues (the need for more chairs) were altering my behaviour that evening. And this is something that has always concerned me about nudge. Design can articulate a clear choice architecture, but it can’t necessarily take into account all those other social practices and everyday realities lurking behind the scenes that are going on that come to bear on everyday life. (This is discussed by Will Leggett in Policy and Politics.)

So this blog pulls out some short ‘takeaways’, from the speakers and then draws on some crowd-sourced material. In other words, I asked three attendees if they would write a short, personal response to the event. First, an abridged version of key points made by our excellent chair and speakers.

l to r: Jessica Pyketty, Phoebe Moore (hidden), Dan Lockton, Peter John, Alison Powell, Simon Blyth.

l to r: Jessica Pyketty, Phoebe Moore (hidden), Dan Lockton, Peter John, Alison Powell, Simon Blyth.

Dan Lockton, Research Tutor, Innovation Design Engineering, Royal College of Art, as the Salon’s chair, kicked off firstly by asking if behaviour is something you can design with and what kind of medium is it, then? He showed that thinking about influencing behaviour is by no means new, but basing this on an assumption that there is an ‘irrational’ set of behaviours that need ‘correcting’ is. This needs to be explored rather than accepted a-critically. There is a new degree of quantification of the self that was previously not possible. This isn’t just about individual fitness data, for example, but found in the rise of Smart Cities, Smart Homes and Big Data. What are the assumptions that are being made here? Is it down to who is instigating the behaviour change and for what?

Jessica Pyketty, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Birmingham, followed up on this issue of scale. Is it about very small, quite trivial changes to action or does it involve a wholesale involvement of the state, and, indeed, neoliberal systems in the correcting or construction of the self? It’s probably both and therefore it’s equally important to explore the in-between spaces between these two extremes. A number of questions then ensue. What are the rationalities behind and what are their accumulative effects? Is the behavioural intervention open to challenge? What institutions and organizations are delivering these and for whom? What is the legitimacy of paid-for experts (e.g. designers) here? Is behaviour the actual problem to be solved? Again, as I noted above, what background issues are at stake that should or could be addressed instead? What are the unintended consequences of nudge? Does this lead to a fragmented, over-therapeutised self? Does this lead to hierarchies of rationality and irrationality?

Peter John, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, UCL, viewed behaviour change as offering a fresh set of tools for policymakers that are, in fact, not top-down. Thinking through how a citizen interacts with services forces the policymaker to think like the citizen. Rolling out nudge approaches doesn’t take much in terms of resources. It’s the light touches that matter, he argued. But the challenge is to design nudges that involve some civic participation. There is an experimentalism in nudge within policymaking. The government’s nudge unit has been very transparent with the way the work. By being open about how you’re working and what the benefits may be for all (for example, saving local authority money so it can be re-invested elsewhere), you are treating the public as grown-ups and generating greater empathy.

Phoebe Moore, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Middlesex University, drew on Gilbreth and Taylor’s time and motion studies in the early part of the 20th century and then Packard’s 1957 text The Hidden Persuaders to illustrate the deep historical background for design for behaviour change in workplaces. To bring this forward, data technologies allow one to see parts of behaviour that are not otherwise knowable – think worker tracking and its analysis to reveal patterns of actions. In 2014, 10,000 companies began to introduce worker-tracking devices that can track steps and heart-rate to provide metrics on activity. The creepy possibility emerging then is whether new forms of tracking will may be linked to appraisals and performance indicators in future, leading to work intensification. Big data accumulation at work can also be used in ways that are less about surveillance and more in helping workers to identify their own best ways of working.

Alison Powell, Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Communication, LSE, pushed the debate away from data as a way of analysing what has happened to data as a way of anticipating a set of potential future possibilities. Futures can then be framed and structured. Nudging design is precisely to do with this. It’s about establishing the range of possibilities and within this, desirable and less desirable possibilities are also established. This then opens up or closes down what is normal in what we can even imagine. Through this, self-trackers, for instance, don’t just represent the body but construct the body. What are the politics of the data that comes from this? Who owns it? When does representing ourselves in terms of data become creepy? The creepiness is when we don’t know what to do with this information. It’s in the design of the system or in the feedback loop between the quantifiable and the possible. You don’t know the extent of knowing about yourself and you can’t control its boundaries. How are you measured? Against what? And what lies outside what is quantified?

Simon Blyth, founder of Actant design research consultancy, spoke from the context of working with the analysis ordinary practices as an innovation consultant to various large corporations. Simon works with consumer packaging and FMCGs. He views the companies as ‘brand bureaucracies’ who are obsessed with marketing – they love abstraction and reduction so that core messages and procedures can be expressed and understood easily and quickly. More recently he has been getting briefs that are not about creating new products but are directed at changing consumers’ behaviour. These can be quite simple things like getting children to wash their hands after going to the toilet. Sometimes the work is then about continuity – how to get people to carry on the same behaviours which may be positive when it comes to things like health. Sometimes these are about compensating for other innovations.


These are some of the highlights. Let’s hear from three attendee-participants. All three have been panellists at previous Salons, so it’s nice to feel that some kind of Salon community is building.

First up, Stephen Feber, wrote to me the day after Salon 18 with the following points.

I’ve used behavioural economics in a project funded by the department for communities and local government – applying it to behaviour change in the visitor economy – where it’s simply too difficult to alter the physical infrastructure but possible to alter the relationship between the suppliers and customers via behavioural change nudges. I ran four innovation labs in Bournemouth with Bournemouth University.

I’m sure you’ve covered this elsewhere but the most obvious point is how generally ignorant we are and how poor we are forecasting. Also, several of the panel did seem to be working with a really old version of the state. Really, the question of the century is how we lighten and simplify our organisational structures to move beyond the command control state. Data visualisation and digital everything start to extend our sensing, responding and thinking capabilities both at individual, community, region and state level. We should be looking at design which facilitates and frees, whilst providing some behavioural boundaries solve the larger questions – energy independence, food independence, population et cetera. Digital connectedness starts this – it’s not simply dark but it does need watching!

So shared surface road design, at a very trivial level, is one interesting example of design that works with the grain of human behaviour – which is the really important part of behavioural economics – design which fits us, rather than design that manipulates us.

[We need] really, intelligent design, resilient design provides iterative/feedback mechanisms that inform the user/creator/builder – so that cycles of continuous improvement happen. And the lesson of nudge is not really about state control but about design that works with us – the good and the bad parts of us – to establish a facilitating environment for learning and growth. When I used to talk about interactive science centre exhibit design I used to use a continuum: instructive – reactive – interactive – creative. It’s perfectly possible to design streets, towns, public buildings, housing which follow this “facilitating environment” idea.

Lucy Kimbell (UAL), who recently completed a one year AHRC fellowship in Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office, shared some perspectives from being inside the policy making environment. She said, I’ve heard David Halpern [Chief Executive of the Nudge Unit) talking about the Behavioural Insights Team and he often emphasises that he thinks its major contribution is a new empiricism and experimentation in policy making. In contrast – or rather alongside this – are new kinds of expertise such as those being introduced by Policy Lab within the Civil Service, which involve setting up collective inquiries using inventive methods in which problem and solution are not fully defined at the outset. You could say that all policy aims at changing behaviour and design is being explicitly brought into play to help achieve this. Positivist approaches that resemble hard science remain the dominant narrative but there are plenty of other kinds of experimentation going on.


Finally, Jocelyn Bailey brought another view from the design consultant arena.

Working for a design agency that occupies itself primarily with socially-focused projects, and quite often at the behest of government and other public bodies, I find myself thinking about the ethical, political, institutional, and value frameworks that shape what we do.

In social policy interventions, broadly, you can either try to change the service, or to change the user (or in some cases to change the system). Nudge and other behaviour change techniques are essentially about consciously attempting to change people, and the argument is, typically, ‘it’s for their own good’.

A lot of the time it seems fairly self-evident what constitutes that social or individual ‘good’ – persuading people to give up smoking, or save money, or get themselves tested for some disease, or do whatever it is the institution in question wants them to do. So on the one hand we are helping solve some social ills (assuming that is even possible).

But in another sense, if we just pretend for a second that ‘social good’ isn’t an absolute, we could view many social interventions as an imposition of one (more powerful) organisation’s set of values onto another (less powerful) group, and we are acting as the go-between that helps that happen even more effectively.

As a practitioner, the questions of which interpretation is the right one, and whose agenda we are really serving, become acute. In one sense of course we know we are very overtly serving a client’s needs or agenda – that’s why we’re hired – but what underpins that? Taken to its logical conclusion, we are either part of the next brilliant wave of social renewal and innovation, or handmaidens to the neoliberal dismantling of the humane state.

Design historians have a much easier time of things. Spotting political agendas and cultural narratives at work in design policy and practice is relatively easy with hindsight: the horrendous colonialism of the Worlds Fairs, for instance. But when you’re in a particular political moment, it’s a bit harder to discern the different currents in the water you’re swimming in – and tell which one you’re riding. And even if you do bother to puzzle it out, there aren’t any clear answers.

So, to answer the question, ‘is designing for behaviour change creepy?’ (sinister?), I guess my work-in-progress answer to myself is, ‘only as soon as we stop worrying about whether it’s creepy’.

The problem is, I don’t see that many design practitioners worrying about it all that much. To get anecdotal, I recently heard the chief designer for a multinational manufacturer of medical devices (and other things) say, to a fairly large audience, and with no hint of awareness that this might be a terrifying statement:  “we can see inside 400 million people’s bodies, all of that data is in our cloud, and we can mine that data to come up with new ideas and products.” This was couched in terms of “delivering products and services that make people’s lives better”, with not even a nod to the profit motive of the company in question. Leaving aside the tricky territory of behaviour change, there is a highly prevalent trait across the mainstream design community for practitioners to see themselves as the heroic ‘agent of change’, without stopping to ponder which master that change serves. Perhaps it’s very easy to believe that doing ‘user-centred design’ means you’re doing something good for people


Thank you to Stephen, Lucy and Jocelyn for sharing their post-match thoughts. And thank you to the panellists, the chair, Dan Lockton and to all the attendees who filled out the event. And if you want to add some of your own comments, please join in!

7 December 2015

Posted in behaviour change, citizenship, data, publics | 5 Comments

Design Culture Salon 18: Is designing for behaviour change ‘creepy’?

Friday 20 November, 6:30pm, Clore 55, Victoria and Albert Museum

Design for behaviour change has been one of the most compelling instruments of design practice in fields from politics, marketing, transport to urban planning. The concept has received enthusiastic reception by many inside government, who apply ‘Nudge’ principles in the formulation of policy. Design insights are regularly applied within PR and advertising strategies. But many critics of behaviour change are uneasy about the ethics and morals of this mode of design thinking and practice. This critique has a long history, since the publication of Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders (1957) to the more recent criticism of the influential Nudge (2009). So, how justified are these concerns? What are they based on and what are the alternatives?  Is there a better way of articulating what we mean by ‘creepy’ or being more transparent about the motives and techniques of designing for ‘behaviour change’?

Chair: Dr Dan Lockton, Research Tutor, Innovation Design Engineering, Royal College of Art

Dr Simon Blyth, Founder of Actant design research consultancy
Professor Peter John, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, UCL
Dr Phoebe Moore, Senior Lecturer, Department of Law and Politics, Middlesex University
Dr Alison Powell, Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Communication, LSE.
Dr Jessica Pykett, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Birmingham


Simon Blyth founded Actant in 2011. Prior to this he was Head of the European Food and Beverage Practice at the design and innovation consultancy IDEO. Over the past years his clients have included: SAB Miller, Mondelez International, Bacardi Global Brands, Department for International Development, Nestle, Unilever and Premier Foods. With a PhD in Sociology, he’s passionate about identifying ‘cultural opportunities’ and designing new ‘social practices’ for his clients. Simon is regularly invited to write and speak on material culture, design thinking, the sociology of consumption and consumer insight. Recent publications include ʻDesign Thinking and the Big Society: From Solving Personal Troubles to Designing Social Problemsʼ,ʻThe Dig: Is Archaeology the New Ethnography?ʼ and ʻRe-thinging (typo intended) Market Researchʼ. Simon has taught at the universities of Bath, Oxford and Southampton .

Peter John joined UCL in September 2011 as Professor of Political Science and Public Policy. He is known for his books on public policy, such as Analysing Public Policy (2nd edition 2012) and Making Policy Work (2011). His book with Keith Dowding, Exits, Voices and Social Investment: Citizens’ Reaction to Public Services was published with Cambridge University Press in 2012 and with Anthony Bertelli (NYU), Public Policy Investment by Oxford University Press in 2013), a study of how governments approach risk when selecting policies. He is currently using experiments to study civic participation in public policy, with the aim of finding out what governments and other public agencies can do to encourage citizens to carry out acts of collective benefit. This work came together in a book with Bloomsbury Academic, Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think: Using Experiments to Change Civic Behaviour which was published in 2011.

Dan Lockton specialises in the links between design, understanding, and human action, particularly with respect to behaviour change for social and environmental benefit. As Visiting Research Tutor in Innovation Design Engineering, he supervises PhD research in areas including cybernetics and the Internet of Things, design for behaviour change around product repair, and applications of synaesthesia in design. From 2013–15, Dan was a Senior Associate in the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, as part of the Age& Ability and Work & City Research Labs. Dan was previously a research fellow at WMG, University of Warwick, and a research assistant at Brunel University. For his PhD at Brunel, he developed Design with Intent, a multidisciplinary toolkit for designers working on behaviour change.

Phoebe Moore is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Middlesex University. She has been teaching International Relations and International Political Economy since September 2000 in the United Kingdom and has published a number of books, articles and reports about labour struggle, industrial relations and the impact of technology on workers’ everyday lives. Her PhD is from Nottingham University was entitled ‘Neoliberal Globalisation and Labour Struggle in South Korea’. She won the Economics and Social Research Council (ESRC) Post-doctoral Fellowship at that time, served at the University of Manchester. Dr Moore won the British Academy/Leverhulme award from the small grants scheme to research the use of self-tracking health devices in companies. This project is entitled Agility, Work and the Quantified Self. She is lead Social Scientist researching the project The Quantified Workplace at Colliers International and has published her first report on the project on the company’s website.

Alison Powell is Assistant Professor and Programme Director of the MSc in Media and Communication (Data & Society). she researches how people’s values influence the way technology is built, and how technological systems in turn change the way we work and live together. She is currently working on a book about technological citizenship and governance in data cities and Internet of Things-enabled ‘sensing cities’ and working on several projects related to citizenship, cities, data and ethics. This work tries to understand the discourses, practices and governance structures that are part of our society’s orientation towards data. Her past research projects have looked at community wireless networking and its policy impact, digital rights activism in comparative perspective (including Net Neutrality and the opposition to SOPA and ACTA legislation) and the expansion of open source, DIY and hacking culture from software to hardware to open science.

Jessica Pykett is a social and political geographer with research interests in citizenship and the practices of governing, the geographies of education, and the formation of neurological and psychological citizen-subjectivities. Before joining the University of Birmingham in September 2012, Jessica was a lecturer in Human Geography at Aberystwyth University. Here she worked on a Leverhulme funded grant on the ‘Time-Spaces of Soft-Paternalism’. Previously she was an ESRC research fellow at The Open University and has held research positions at the University of Bristol and Futurelab Education. She is co-author of ) Changing Behaviours: On the Rise of the Psychological State. (2013).

This is a free, drop-in event. No need to book.
Directions to Clore 55 here. 

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Reflections on Design Culture Salon 17: Imitation, Inspiration or Theft: What does intellectual property mean in a global design economy?

Following its summer recess, the University of Brighton/Victoria and Albert Museum Design Culture Salon returned with yet another belter of an event. They seem to get better and better. Described as a ‘dream panel’ by one VIP attendee, the combined force of ideas and insights that emanated from it filled the packed room with Friday evening energy.

l. to r.: Mark Waugh, Tania Rufus-Phipps, Sarah Teasley, Arti Sandhu, Landé Pratt

l. to r.: Mark Waugh, Tania Rufus-Phipps, Sarah Teasley, Arti Sandhu, Landé Pratt

In an attempt to head off inflated expectations, I began by warning that the subject of Intellectual Property can be very dull. Here’s a list of the some of the stuff you have to learn to get ahead in IP:

Registered design
Trade secrets

Then you have to understand how these are applied in different territories. For example what is the World Intellectual Property Organization and its Patent Cooperation Treaty? And the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs and its International Trademark System Patent Cooperation Treaty?

(Pay attention! This stuff may come up in your end-of-year examinations! Or the Christmas quiz, for that matter…)

But, for my money, when you look at individual cases of IP it becomes fascinating. They tell us as much about differing cultural and intellectual practices of places as about their legal systems. Furthermore, as it became very apparent through the evening, the creative industries are very much built on unashamed borrowing, quoting, cutting and pasting, improvising on, extending from and so on. However, its open culture of sharing may seem at odds with the privatizing impulses of IP.

Fashion law expert, Tania Phipps-Rufus reminded us that policy often tells us that IP is a good thing for protecting creative invention and yet, the fashion industry, for example, relies on the continual recycling of ideas. She describes this as an ‘open ecology of sharing’. Digital technology means that design ideas circulate much more rapidly these days and designers have much more direct access to global recognition. At the same time, their work can be copied that much more easily by a broader constituency. Meanwhile, luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Ralph Lauren are really hot on defending their IP. They have the funds and legal back-up to be able to defend their monopolies on particular styles.

As Head of Innovation and Research at the Designers’ and Artists’ Copyright Society (DACS), Mark Waugh is involved in protecting the marketplace for creative practitioners. DACS acts to collect fees for the licensing of creative work for reproduction, returning £15m to its registered participants last year. Nonetheless, he recognizes that postmodernism has involved a process wherein ‘the signature is broken apart’, as he put it. While contemporary capitalism places a pressure for differentiation into the marketplace, reproduction doesn’t necessarily mean copying. Nothing is the same. His observations back-filled the legalistic discussions with compelling philosophical arguments as to the nature of originality.

Arti Sandhu, drawing from her extensive research on and knowledge of Indian fashion, brought in important reflections from beyond the global North. At one level, she observes that there is a complicated exchange going on in Indian high fashion. This involves a to-ing and fro-ing of ‘orientalism’ whereby eventually, at times, Indian fashion recycles Western notions of Indian styles — a kind of re-orientalist design strategy. Origin gets problematical here. Meanwhile, craft in much of India is an evolutionary process, rather than emphasizing newness. It is something that is practised collectively where novelty can be frowned upon. This therefore makes it difficult to pinpoint where the innovations lie. In summary, it seems that IP sits in a tangled web of cultural identity, tradition and positioning.

Landé Pratt, whose academic work interestingly sits at the interface of IP law and the creative industries and media and communication studies, also discussed issues of the global South in her intervention. She drew attention to how, for example, in many African states there is an ingrained culture of openness and sharing with regards to ideas and innovations. She aligned this with ‘call and response’ modes of public gatherings in sub-Saharan Africa. There has been plenty of looting of cultural value from the global South, however: the Massai brand has been appropriated by no less than six multinational corporations, for instance. Building on Tania Rufus-Phipps’s observations, Landé argued for a kind of hybridity in IP where openness and copying could interlink with legal protection. One of the big challenges in harnessing such a balance is in ensuring that this works equitably across territories.

Design historian Sarah Teasley reminded us of the longer lineage of IP debates. We might take the discussion back to the 15th century and the rise of print, as a Salon attendee  argued later. Or, as Sarah showed, we may take on board the refining of patent law in 18th century England. But she also used the example of Japan in the 1950s to show how IP can indirectly affect design and benefit designers. The drive in Japanese political economy was to distance it from the stereotype of one that merely copied. Companies were encouraged to embrace IP. As a result, more designers were hired to help them create differentiated products. Ultimately, and this is fascinating not just for design historians, patents and other forms of IP are also cultural artefacts. They reflect social, political and economic norms in various territories. Law legitimizes culture.

This issue of the indirect effects of IP on design and design practices leads on to the question of why so few designers protect their own work. A Design Council report of 2010 showed that 66% of design companies did not ‘do’ IP at all and only 1% of them benefitted from royalties. After all, most designers sell IP to clients and, in any case, they don’t want to get stuck into the legalistic quagmire of IP — they just want to get onto the next project, I argued. Tania Rufus-Phipps followed on from this to suggest that IP is only really an issue for designers when it goes wrong. One of the big problems here, currently, is that much IP is not really fit for purpose. Landé Pratt agreed that much IP law is out of sync with creative practices. There needs to be a deeper understanding of how design industries function if they are to be better protected from a legal standpoint.

In discourses around IP, there often tends to be an oppositional dualism invoked: privatization v. commons; IP v. Open Innovation; scarcity v. abundance and so on. Mark Waugh suggested that the enclosures have always been around: there has always been privatization and protectionism, although it has been played out in different ways through history and in different geographical contexts. There is a tendency to romanticize a mythical, libertarian past. Nonetheless, these days there is an issue of corporations ‘hoovering up’ IP — laying claim to an invention before someone else does, whether they use it or not. Again, this suggests that a more rounded approach to IP needs to be taken on the part of policymakers that works for a broad and varied constituency.

There is still plenty to play for. In finishing, Landé Pratt argued that greater harmonization of IP between regions will provide a more level playing field for actors around the world. Arti Sandhu observed how IP is beginning to push back against cultural appropriation. Sarah Teasley agreed that it could be a tool for addressing power imbalances. Tania Rufus-Phipps suggested that there could also be more flexibility in IP law to allow for cultural difference. Mark Waugh concluded by reminding us that IP is still a source of livelihood for many creative practitioners.

But we all agreed that those creative practitioners need to be much better informed about how IP functions, who it is for and what are its benefits and pitfalls.

28 October 2015

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Design Culture Salon 17: Imitation, Inspiration or Theft: What does intellectual property mean in a global design economy?

October 23, 6:30pm, Clore 55, V&A Museum

The fine line between imitation and inspiration has always been a source of contention and debate in design. However the issue has come under greater scrutiny of late, in the context of the increasingly central role played by China and India in the global design economy. Here, the terms Intellectual Property (IP) function in different ways to Europe and America. This Salon will explore the possibilities and complexities of finding a common understanding of Intellectual Property across global design cultures and consider the implications of this for the future of design practice.


Professor Guy Julier, University of Brighton Principal Research Fellow in Contemporary Design


Tania Phipps-Rufus is currently studying for her Ph.D on Fashion, Culture and Intellectual Property in the Creative Economy (at the University of Bristol). Her scholarship focuses on the legal aspects of contemporary fashion business, and her research interests also concern intellectual property as it applies to the Design, Art & Fashion industries.  Tania read law at the University of Kent, Canterbury, and obtained her master of laws degree in intellectual property from the University of London, Queen Mary (2006). She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the blog: Fashion Law & Business and is a lecturer at the London based Italian fashion University, Istituto Marangoni, where she teaches the legal aspects of fashion business on the MA in Fashion Promotion and the MA in Strategic Luxury Brand Management. Prior to this she was a visiting lecturer of law at the University of Hertfordshire where she taught on the Masters of Law programme in Intellectual Property Law, M-commerce Law, E-commerce Law, Entertainment Law, and Contract Law & Negotiation.

Mark Waugh is currently Head of Research and Innovation at DACS drawing on experience across the private and public sector in the visual arts. He is Chair of Spacex Gallery Exeter and has recently worked extensively in Korea and South East Asia as Commissioner for emerging artfairs; Art Gwangju and G-Seoul 13 and as Associate Director Of SUUM; Commissioning a number of projects in collaboration with Samsung Electronics including the new media focused award, The Samsung Art+ Prize. He is producer of the International Curators Forum and previously Director of the iconic A Foundation in London and Liverpool. He author of the novels, Bubble Entendre and Come and Co- editor with Thomas Frank of; We Love You / On Audiences.

Arti Sandhu currently holds a position of Associate Professor in Fashion Design at Columbia College in Chicago. She studied Fashion Design at N.I.F.T. (New Delhi) and received her Master’s Degree in Fashion and Textile Design from Nottingham Trent University (U.K.). She has taught Fashion Design in New Zealand and the US. Her research interests lie in fashion and related visual and material culture studies, especially with regards to the impact of globalization, cross cultural exchanges and local pop-culture on Indian fashion and design. She has recently published a book titled Indian Fashion: Tradition, Innovation and Style through Bloomsbury Academic.

Dr Landé Pratt teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the Department of Media and Communication at Kingston University. She convenes a range of applied, theory and practice-based modules, including: Media Rights and Mashups and, Multi-Media (including documentary) Production. She is called to the Bar of England and Wales and, runs a training consultancy specialising in law / legal strategy relevant to the creative industries. Her current research projects include work on intellectual property, cultural property rights, film and music distribution, photography & design rights and user-generated content. She is interested in legal and enterprise issues relevant to the creative industries across cultures. Prior to her work at Kingston, Landé Pratt project managed / co-produced, the British Film Institute’s web archive on the history of British film and television.

Dr Sarah Teasley is Head of Programme (RCA) for the V&A/RCA programme in History of Design. Her research takes historical case studies from product, furniture and architectural design and manufacturing in Japan since the late nineteenth century to consider broader questions around design, technology and society. She is particularly interested in the roles that technical mediation and policy play in the adoption of new processes, materials and technologies, and in design as a perspective into political economy. Sarah’s teaching and research supervision covers the design and manufacture of objects and spaces in the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries, within Europe and North America as well as East Asia. Her other research and teaching interests include critical theory, the history and philosophy of technology, gender and design, globalisation and the design of mass production and other large systems.

Free event: All welcome! Directions to Clore 55 here. 

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Series Four Programme

The Design Culture Salon Series Four program is now available to view in the Future Salons section of this site.

The events are free and unticketed: All welcome!


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Reflections on Design Culture Salon 16: What does design do for citizenship in the age of the consumer?

If ever there was an outcome of Design Culture Salon’s discussion that reflected our political times, then this evening’s was one of them. When it comes to thinking about how design could function in new ways to produce new politics and new forms of citizenship and participation, we all agreed that we are in a moment of ‘existential angst’. All bets are off. We don’t know exactly what should happen, but something should…

We weren’t going to reach a perfect (Nordic-style) plain of consensus through two hours of talk. Indeed, we discovered early on that there were some fundamental disagreements even with the premise of the argument.

By reference to Abercrombie et al’s 1986 book Sovereign Individuals of Capitalism, I opened the discussion to argue that while capitalism was deeply social, the notion of the free individual (and by extension, consumer sovereignty) was a trope that runs through centuries of cultural production.  Think:  late-Renaissance portraiture, Enlightenment literature, the modernist canon in painting (cf. Clement Greenberg). Individualism has had its representational gloss over capitalism for a long time.

But there’s something specific about the date of Abercrombie’s book:  it came out in the mid-1980s when Thatcherism was in full sail and the notion of the expression of freedom through individual consumerism was in full swing. Are we still locked into this or does design have a role in reframing both consumerism and citizenship?

l to r:  Irenie Ekkeshis,  Gordon Hush,  Noortje Marres,  Barry Quirk, Leanne Wierzba, Guy Julier. Photo:  Jocelyn Bailey

l to r: Irenie Ekkeshis,
Gordon Hush,
Noortje Marres,
Barry Quirk, Leanne Wierzba, Guy Julier. Photo: Jocelyn Bailey

Irenie Ekkeshis also placed this turn toward the ‘consumer’ in the mid-1980s, arguing that consumer identity had dominated public discourse ever since. However, she noted this was, finally, being challenged. Digital technologies were allowing other possibilities of identity to circulate. As design has been partly responsible for getting us into this framework (‘another fine mess’), it can also be active in taking us to other sets of relationships and identities. Her work at the New Citizenship Project is focused on getting organizations and individuals to see through a citizen lens. For example, a new project of theirs is called Rabble; it finds ways of connecting families into volunteer activities and as such, it garners new possibilities beyond merely ‘going shopping’.

Gordon Hush put us right by arguing that notions of the consumer even went back to the seventeenth century. Aside from this correction, he also suggested that design itself can’t really do much for citizenship, but designers can. Citizenship as a concept is profoundly uneconomic in that it isn’t directed at maximum rent. So if designers look to working in this framework, then they have much to contribute but must look to other frameworks and ways of working. He cited the Scottish Parliament’s clear-sighted engagement with design methods, led by Cat Macaulay where policy is fostered by talking to people, visualising change and prototyping possible outcomes.

Noortje Marres challenged the separation of consumption and citizenship in the debate. These are not separate realms but are deeply entangled with each other, she argued. Design is, indeed, culpable in the process of giving these apparent autonomy. Once the consumer is disentangled from citizenship, then s/he is rendered unaccountable. (I take this to mean ‘alienated consumption’. Noortje cited Walter Lippmann’s 1922 book Public Opinion for its critique of the propensity to conceive of things like citizenship as somehow existing outside ‘normal’ or ‘everyday’ living. This takes politics out of ordinary activities. Design, according to Noortje, should and could be active in showing how politics and the quotidien everyday are entangled.

Barry Quirk began his intervention spectacularly by quoting Gracchus in Ridley Scott’s 2000 film Gladiator: ‘The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it’s the sand of the Colosseum’. With 250 days of circus at the height of the Roman Empire, entertainment prevailed over other concerns. There is another point here, though: the world of consumption is not entirely about the private individual – consumption is also a public activity. We vote to have influence over how the taxes we pay are spent, for example. Design, Barry argued, imprisons consumption in its own past. It structures and promotes modes of being rather than opening out new possibilities. How, conversely, can design work to promote empathy and social inclusion in systems of care?

Leanne Wierzba followed up on Barry’s observations on the dominance of consumer culture and its infantilizing effects by reminding us of Barbara Kruger’s 1987 work, ‘I Shop Therefore I Am’. Through this she took us to thinking about Jacques Lacan’s notion of the mirror stage and how ‘I organize myself in relation to the world out there’. Consumerism has become a dominant mode because it helps us position ourselves where other points of reference for the self seem to have faded or gone adrift. There is the possibility, though, that design can provide another mirror to help us look beyond the immediacy of the self-as-consumer and reflect back on the broader social, political, ecological and economic implications of this tendency in our culture.

The question as to whether design should be mobilized to make civic participation more attractive and more celebratory is challenging. At one level, the ‘pencil on a string’ mode of voting is dull; but it is also appropriately dispassionate, it could be said. Gordon Hush argued that we should disentangle politics from spectacle and allow a quiet space for us to think and engage in it, rather than ‘sexing-up voting paraphernalia’. Elsewhere, though, Noortje Marres saw the parallel in issues and brands: both are things that are enroled in; they draw in personal enthusiasm and concern.

Meanwhile, Irenie Ekkeshis sees a great opportunity lost with so much creative power amongst professionals and non-professionals alike when it isn’t mobilized more into the domain of citizenship. This can also come down to the way that choices are arrived at and Barry Quirk made the case for designers to be involved in developing more sophisticated forms of citizen participation in decision-making.

Leanne Wierzba brought up the eternal question of cost versus value here: currently, it is cheaper to maintain ‘old’ forms of citizenship (high consumption levels, high environmental impact etc.) than it is to derive new value in the social domain. The challenge, perhaps, is to design low-cost ways of achieving higher social and environmental value.

One of my current obsessions is refuting grandiose declarations of ‘design is this or that’. Can we have a more nuanced discussion where we are more precise about the kinds of design objects we are talking about, the economic frameworks in which design is functioning and the kinds of designers we mean? It seems to be one of the great immaturities of much design scholarship that it takes forever to get us beyond vapid generalisations. I was delighted that we began to talk about the different scales and materialities in which design, consumption and citizeship take place, therefore. These are different, for example, in the home, in the neighbourhood, in the borough or county or at national levels.

Citizenship is pegged to nationhood but may be active in various ways in different territorial conditions. (I refer you here to Doreen Massey’s excellent 2004 essay ‘Geographies of Responsibility’.) These may be brought into relation with one another, though. ‘How does a thermostat mediate climate change?’, Noortje Marres asked. The question perfectly entangles consumption and citizenship. But it also suggests that such everyday and intimate things can open up agonistic spaces where debate about our places in the world and the worlds we want can be activated.

Existential angst, folks, begins at home. But let’s get out there as well.


Guy Julier, 13 April 2015


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