1. Dezember 2015, 19:00-20:30 Uhr, Hörsaal/Altbau, MKH
Kari-Hans Kommonen, Aalto University, Finland
Design is most commonly perceived as an activity connected to products: designers design products. Now is a high time to expand that view. The world is in serious trouble, and design as a field and designers as people should do their best to contribute to resolutions. We also need to give up our perceived ownership of design, as a phenomenon, a capacity and a field of activity, and recognize its universality within universe and human culture. In my talk I will discuss design, society, utopia, design fiction, and our current Redesign of Society initiative. (http://redesignofsociety.org/)
Kari-Hans Kommonen is the director of the Arki research group in the Aalto ARTS Media Lab in Helsinki, Finland.
Differences in the Same
(A note on Kari-Hans Kommonen’s lecture by Rosan Chow)
Like in the previous lectures, Kari-Hans raised the questions on the role of design(er) in society-in-trouble. Unlike the others, he presented no image or practical project but quotations after quotations from diverse authors: William Paley, Daniel Dennett, Donald Schön, Victor Papanek, Klaus Krippendorff, Herbert Simon, Anne Larason Schneider, Helen Ingram, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Ruth Levitas and Erik Olin Wright. This range of reference reflects the distance Kari-Hans must have traveled when thinking about the basis for his initiative ‘Redesign of Society’ and the relation between design and society in general.
His take is to see design from an evolutionary perspective. As a verb, design is commonly understood as an intentional act; however, he suggests that evolution exhibits design characteristics but is without intention. Intentional design for him operates within evolution and speeds up the process. Following Schön, he considers design as a driving force for cultural evolution. Besides, together with Simon, Papanek and Krippendorff, he sees everyone is a designer and design is everywhere including both material and immaterial practices. Deciding how to get from A to B or clearing up one’s drawer could be seen as a design task and so is creating policy for democracy.
With this very broad view, our society-in-trouble could be examined from a design perspective. He proposes to approach it with some concepts: Design Toolkit (redesign), Design Space (possibilities), Design Ecosystem (dependency/collaboration), Design Platform (environment/support) and Design Power (right to design). Furthermore, with utopia as a method (Levitas), we might aim for desirable, viable and achievable futures (Wright).
In my view, Kari-Hans’ way of theorizing is distinctively designerly rather than scholarly. It is intellectually promiscuous, more synthetic than analytic, and pragmatic. With this understanding, it is only fair to respond to his proposal as a designed product and to ask whether it is fit for purpose and what new opportunities is opened up.
Krippendorff has once suggested to view designing as basic as writing. Writing can be a shopping list or an epic. Everybody is a writer, though not in a professional sense. In the middle ages, only the scribes could write. The spread of literacy is one of the most important human developments, and the same could be with designing. So Kari-Hans’ proposal is exciting.
However, in my opinions, the analogy to writing has its limits as writing has only one ‘material’, the symbols. Seeing from the broad view, the ‘materials’ of designs could be anything. The effects of ‘materials’ on the design process and the demands on specific competences are not insignificant. Furthermore, the old debates on bounded and wicked problems should not be ignored, I think. Going from A to B or arranging a drawer is a bounded problem. A computer and a robot can be programmed to do these but not a policy for democracy.
My remark is that a broad view on design should not be blind to the differences among levels and types of design challenges. Besides, I also believe, understanding these differences is critical if design competences are to be successfully applied to difficult areas of human life. But I assume that Kari-Hans will not disagree on this.