Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming 

The ideas in this book move from setting out what conceptual design is, through its use as a critical medium for exploring the implications of new developments in science and technology, to the aesthetics of crafting speculative designs. It ends by zooming out to explore the idea of “speculative everything” (159) and “design as a catalyst for social dreaming,” (xi) which is how it connects with the ‘hopes & fears’ mind mapping framework of Transition Design. The authors use ‘what ifs’ scenarios/speculations to envision where we’d like to be, to provoke debate and discussion, and offer solutions on how we might communicate future visions. A multitude of examples from their design and teaching practice serve as propositions for future casting, such as ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant, a flypaper robotic clock, a menstruation machine, a cloud-seeding truck, a phantom-limb sensation recorder, and devices for food foraging. The authors propose that individual action is key to nudge behaviour: “the individual needs to be presented with many options to form an opinion” (160).

Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby. 2013. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. MIT Press.

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Politics of Designing Visions of the Future

Ramia Mazé, a researcher specializing in participatory, critical and politically engaged design practices, offers a critique and an alternative to Western linear conceptualization of time—past, present, future—and notes that concepts of future scarcely exist in some cultures. Mazé proposes we develop “approaches to query and make explicit the assumptions and preferences underlying designed visions of the future...[which] is particularly urgent given the expansion of such visions into policy and the public sphere” (24).  Design, along with art and architecture, can provide essential modes of knowing and other forms of thinking that are lacking in other disciplines. Mazé engages with Elizabeth Grosz’ concept of “the supervalence of the future” (Grosz 1999; 33) which suggests that the future has agency and wields power over the present. By engaging the future, we inform, understand and/or control the present. Albeit future studies are still dominated by “techno-centric, modern and gender- and Western-biased orientations” but they are complemented and challenged by prospective action research, cultural-interpretive and critical-postmodern approaches. When we talk about ‘change’, ‘progress’, ‘transformation’ and ‘transition’, we do so by making assumptions about time, progress, and futurity.
Mazé, Ramia. 2019. “Politics of Designing Visions of the Future.” Journal of Futures Studies 23 (3): 23-38, January.

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Wicked Problems in Design Thinking

According to Richard Buchanan, design thinking should be considered “the new liberal art of technological culture” (5). In centering design as a key discipline for shaping society, his goal is “to connect and integrate useful knowledge from the arts and sciences alike, […] in ways that are suited to the problems and purposes of the present” (6). He argues that the disciplines that are traditionally understood as liberal arts once formed part of an integrated Renaissance education that comprised the scope of human knowledge, from philosophy to mathematics, to the sciences and the fine arts. However, he argues that today the liberal arts have become specialized and siloed from the sciences. He sees design, with its “interconnection of signs, things, actions, and thoughts” (20) as a discipline that can genuinely bridge the humanities and the sciences in practical ways. Designers shape symbolic and visual communication, material objects, activities and organized services, and complex systems or environments for living, working, playing, and learning (9-10). These domains operate across disciplines, so both the arts and sciences use design for problem-solving. This transdisciplinary quality makes design a valuable tool for addressing “wicked problems” (20): challenges that are indeterminately large and complex. Designers can address these problems because their methods are both general and particular, meaning that a designer can frame a general answer to a particular problem, and then reframe the solution in a new context. The transferability of design thinking to new aspects of a problem makes it an integrative discipline that can harness knowledge in interdisciplinary ways.
Buchanan, Richard. 1992. “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking.” Design Issues 8 (2): 5–21.

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Design and Social Impact: A Cross-Sectoral Agenda for Design Education, Research, and Practice

This text summaries findings of the Social Impact Design Summit, held in New York on February 27, 2012. The event brought together participants from nonprofit and for-profit organizations, academic programs, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. They represented several design disciplines: product design, graphic design, urban design, and architecture. The goal was to explore the state of an emerging design field known as “socially responsible design” or “social impact design” (8). The summit proceedings offer a snapshot of the state of the art in 2012, when this field was emerging. They outline challenges to developing impactful new forms of design, and these learnings may be transferrable to other emerging areas of design theory, like transition design. This text includes testimony and case studies from designers working in the Global South, and it identified how cultural biases can limit the emergence of new knowledge.
Smithsonian Institution Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, and National Endowment for the Arts. 2013. “Design and Social Impact: A Cross-Sectoral Agenda for Design Education, Research, and Practice.”

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Part 1: Social Innovation and Design in Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation

The first part of this three-part book describes strategies for organizing society that encourage resilience, complexity, distributed agency, and collaboration. It imagines “cosmopolitan localism” as a society built around social innovation that draws sustainably on "global networks and local realities" (25). According to Manzini’s new forms of design must emerge to meet the needs of this evolving society and help bring it into being. He encourages new forms of design thinking that transcend common polarities, like the traditional distinctions between the producers and users of products. He describes new design methods as integrating grassroots and expert knowledge. This is a book of “research on design” that analyzes the capacities and potential of design to be the discipline that can best help engineer a new more resilient future (39).
Manzini, Ezio. 2015. “Part 1: Social innovation and design.” In Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. 7-74. MIT Press.

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