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50 Powerful Questions from Escobar's Designs for the Pluriverse


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50 Powerful Questions from Escobar's Designs for the Pluriverse

  1. 1. Powerful Questions from:
  2. 2. Design for the Real World But Which “World”? What “Design”? What “Real”?
  3. 3. Can design’s modernist tradition be reoriented from its dependence on the life-stifling dualist ontology of patriarchal capitalist modernity toward relational modes of knowing, being, and doing? Can it be creatively reappropriated by subaltern communities in support of their struggles to strengthen their autonomy and perform their life projects?
  4. 4. Can design be reoriented from its dependence on the marketplace toward creative experimentation with forms, concepts, territories, and materials, especially when appropriated by subaltern communities struggling to redefine their life projects in a mutually enhancing manner with the Earth?
  5. 5. Queremos un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos (We want a world where many worlds fit) Is it possible to read in these popular slogans the seeds of a radical design imagination?
  6. 6. Are these masculine imaginaries of creation — design imaginations for sure— really universal, or unavoidable, as their fathers pretend? Have these tawdry fathers, with their narrow vision of innovation, robbed us of different visions of the future?
  7. 7. The question of modernity or modernities, including the seemingly simple question, is life better today than it has ever been for the human majorities? Or has modernity’s ability to even imagine the questions that need to be asked to effectively face the contemporary ecological and social crisis been so fatally compromised, given its investment in maintaining the worlds that created it, as to make it historically necessary to look elsewhere, in other- than-modern world-making possibilities?
  8. 8. The claims about design’s potential new roles range from the significant to the earth shattering. A key question becomes: how does one design for a complex world? Instead of keeping on filling the world with stuff, what design strategies will allow us—humans—to lead more meaningful and environmentally responsible lives?
  9. 9. If we start with the presupposition, striking perhaps but not totally farfetched, that the contemporary world can be considered a massive design failure, certainly the result of particular design decisions, is it a matter of designing our way out?
  10. 10. Is design at present inextricably tied to capitalism and a liberal conception of politics? Conversely, can design be infused with a more explicit sense of politics, even a radical politics?
  11. 11. Do design practices participate in the sociology of absences by overlooking nonexpert subaltern knowledges or by treating them as unable to provide the basis for other designs and design otherwise? Or by measuring productivity and efficiency through the monocultural yardstick of market economics? Conversely, can design practice contribute to broadening, and drawing on, the rich spectrum of experiences that should be considered viable alternatives to what exists?
  12. 12. More generally, what would it entail to construct a non-Eurocentric design imagination? What kinds of epistemic and ontological platforms would this project require? What would it take for design practitioners to search for repertoires of design ideas from the perspective of social and cognitive justice (including, but going beyond, the more easily detectable forms of vernacular design)?
  13. 13. The question for design remains, what would it take for designers to operate without a purely objectivist and single vision of the real? To embrace the notion that design practices, too, might contribute to creating multiple notions of out-thereness, rather than a single one? And, moreover, to take seriously the view that reality is an ongoing and continuous flow of forms and intensities of all kinds?
  14. 14. If not dualism, if life is always in connection, then what? The immediate, obvious answer to disconnection, isolation, and so forth is, of course, to reconnect—with each other, with our bodies, the nonhuman world, the stream of life. One rising answer to the problematic of disconnection / reconnection is thus relationality. There are many ways to understand relationality.
  15. 15. Is it possible to develop a deeper notion of relationality, one in which the relational basis of existence radically pervades the entire order of things?
  16. 16. What would it mean to develop a personal and collective practice of interbeing? How do we innovate with postdualist ways of inhabiting the planet that are more amicable to the continued existence of all sentient beings, ways in which humans become present to the planet in a manner that is mutually enhancing? Can these be fostered in the most modern-driven contemporary settings?
  17. 17. Is it possible to reorient such a tradition and to redirect the journey into an altogether different direction? Is this what the planetary ecological and social crisis is all about, or at least one of its important dimensions? Can design play a role in such a reorientation of both the cultural background and the journey itself?
  18. 18. Are the rematerialization of the body and the reterritorialization of place still possible? Or are they already historically foreclosed possibilities?
  19. 19. So, do you now see why ontology—actually, political ontology—is important? Can design contribute to fulfilling the historic, perhaps vital, task of catalyzing forms of collective intelligence that attend to the kinds of choices confronting us, including design’s own role in creating them?
  20. 20. Thinking sustainability through design brings forth the challenging question, “How do you translate a new cognitive paradigm into material environments and everyday practices?” (Manzini 2015,10; Tonkinwise 2013)
  21. 21. Can design be more attuned to these realizations? To inhabiting spaces of nonduality, nonliberalism, noncapitalism? To finding sources of the nonself in the most contemporary struggles and situations? These are questions for an anthropology and cultural studies of design.
  22. 22. Care should be taken of course not to fall into an uncritical defense of traditions that might shelter one form of oppression or another (e.g., patriarchy). But one can legitimately ask, can some types of tradition not be used today as tools for criticism, futuring, and sustainment?
  23. 23. What does it mean to take seriously the insights of relationality in design work?
  24. 24. How can designers become newly aware of the fact that design careers often result in the use of vast amounts of materials that contribute to ecosystem destruction and pose risks to fellow humans? That “designers do a lot of material destroying on their way to being creative” (Tonkinwise 2013)?
  25. 25. Is autonomous design not an oxymoron? To state it prospectively, the possibility I am trying to ascertain is whether ontologically oriented design could be design for, and from, autonomy
  26. 26. Given a model of the system that generates the problem of communal concern, the question that every autonomous design project must face is: what can we do about it? The answer will depend on how complex the model of reality is. The concrete result is the design of a series of tasks, organizational practices, and criteria by which to assess the performance of the inquiry and design task.
  27. 27. Problem statements need to address the question, “Why do we/I see this as a problem?,” and to follow each “because . . .” with another “why” until participants’ values are made explicit.
  28. 28. The design process also needs to broach the questions, What/who needs to change? Why is this change not happening now? What consequences would follow if such changes were to happen? And these inquiries must be repeated at various scales, including the household, community, the region, and beyond.
  29. 29. For those of us without an ancestral mandate to help our worlds persevere, the question becomes, how do we recreate and recommunalize our worlds? How do we develop forms of knowing that do not take words and beings and things out of the flow of life —forms of knowing and being that do not recompose nature as external to us, as dead or unsentient matter? What kinds of rituals might we develop to this end?
  30. 30. How do we render our inevitable existential condition of being entre mundos, between worlds, into a hopeful praxis of living, a space for contributing to stitch worlds together within a pluriversal ethics?
  31. 31. To paraphrase: it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of modernity. This is a question that does not go away completely. As Maturana and Verden-Zöller say, “our human existence is one in which we can live whatever world we bring about in our conversations, even if it is a world that finally destroys us as the kind of being that we are” (2008, 143). Might the civilizational conversation called modernity be at risk of reaching this point? If modernity is ineluctably all we have to go on, then this book’s propositions could legitimately be qualified as romantic or utopian.
  32. 32. Is technoscience even partially adaptable or reversible, as all transition narratives implicitly assume? Is this not also a rather baseless and naive desire? Any redesigned design philosophy must articulate a critique of the rationalistic tradition and reconstruct its own mode of rationality, open to the plurality of modes of consciousness that inhabits the pluriverse. But is this really possible? This does not mean an antiscience position; in fact, none of the authors invoked in these pages sustains such a position.
  33. 33. Do “Traditional Communities” Design? Toward a Practice of Disoñar (Designing-Dreaming)
  34. 34. Is nondualist design not an oxymoron, for is design not always about human projects and goal-oriented change, about an analytics and ethics of improvement and an inescapable ideology of the novum, that is, of development, progress, and the new? Moreover, why use the word design at all, especially for nonmodern contexts?
  35. 35. Is it advisable to use the concept of design in connection with struggles for autonomy by communities and collectives struggling precisely to keep dualist ontologies and instrumentalizing technologies at bay? Would it not make more sense to declare these communities “design-free territories”?
  36. 36. I believe the issue of whether indigenous communities design should remain an open question. But from this provisional discussion we can rearticulate the question in a way that applies to communities and social groups in many parts of the world: How do we make effective weavings and foster mutually enhancing entanglements of worlds in the face of the catastrophe visited on the planet by the current global capitalist One-World order?
  37. 37. Does the concept of the pluriverse, and the field of political ontology that attends to it, have a future with futures? Or will these concepts, and ontological design itself, become yet one more academic endeavor, interesting but defuturing in relation to enabling worlds, knowledges, and lives otherwise?
  38. 38. Design, it is often stressed, is about (preferred) futures. But is not the notion of future, and even futures and the futural, inevitably modern?
  39. 39. Will designers be able to contribute to dissuading unreflective publics from succumbing to the virtual realities offered by the patriarchal and capitalistic technological imaginations of the day? Is the fundamental question of design today then about diverging imaginations of the future?
  40. 40. Can one bring back beauty and harmony into the world, so undermined in the name of urban comfort and efficiency?
  41. 41. One final question: does the university have any positive role to play in relation to transition and autonomous design? Is the university not irremediably ensconced within the Enlightenment project, with its liberal, anthropocentric, and capitalistic trademarks? Is the university not one of the most effective occupying forces of people’s lives and territories, along with the State, the police, and the army? [and religion]
  42. 42. Can academic knowledge be made less hierarchical and elitist? Is not this book also part of the same academy? No doubt it is, in both its language and its mode of construction. Could it also be part of the decolonizing effort?
  43. 43. What are the best ways of going about the redesign of those institutions that keep unsustainability, growing inequality, and odious, unacceptable levels of injustice in place?