Filed under: Methods+Tools, Social design, Sustainability, Thoughts on readings, User/Human Centred Design, Visual diagrams
The frustration I felt when I saw the presentations on sustainability at the research stream of AGIdeas is that there’s a limit to what design can do if its still locked in the same old paradigm of producing better products (eg. using less energy, using recyclable / renewable materials). Its what Fumi said at the DESIS talk – the explosion of eco-friendly market in Japan over the last 20 yrs has had a ‘rebound effect’ (offset from the introduction of new technology) making little to no impact on CO2 emissions (see the line graph at the top of the chart – in fact, the CO2 emissions have gone up over the last 20 years)
“Since late 1900s, Japanese industries together with academy and the government aimed to develop environmentally efficient products, applying eco-design methods. The results were so fruitful that the market was filled with ‘eco products’. And as a result, the total amount of material and energy consumption have increased, so as GHG”
Perhaps this is why the DESIS framework, with the inclusion of social innovation AND sustainability interests me. If design is about creating meaning, experiences and relationships, it is centred on people – not products – and so the processes and outcomes of social innovation needs to be sustaining for people and sustainable for the environment.
I then drew this diagram – an addition to the venn. I don’t know if this is ‘cheating’ but instead of the overlaps (which venn is good at showing), I wanted to visualise the agency of design as practice/process-driven. I tried drawing ’stitching’, ‘bridging’, or drawing a ‘cog’ but none of them seemed to capture what I’m thinking.
The ‘bridging’ resonated with me because of the readings I’m doing at the moment on social networks and social capital. There is a well-trodden hypothesis that innovation comes at the edge of a ’structural hole’. ‘People whose networks bridge the structural holes between groups have earlier access to a broader diversity of information and have experience in translating information across groups. People whose networks bridge the structural holes between groups have an advantage in detecting and developing rewarding opportunities. Information arbitrage is their advantage. They are able to see early, see more broadly, and translate information across groups … brokerage across the structural holes between groups provides a vision of options otherwise unseen.’ (Burt 2004, p. 354)
So, then I interrogated that social innovation, it being a field, but it too is also process-driven. That social innovation and design is, in this instance, the two sides of the same coin. The field in which it operates within could then be visualised as many – for social inclusion; disaster preparedness; community cohesion… bringing in stakeholders who represent/advocate/contribute different knowledge or practice perspectives.
Design brokers that process, bringing people together from different backgrounds, thereby creating a fruitful space for social innovation to take place. Because design always operates outside of itself (designers shouldn’t design for designers – that’s called incest), perhaps this gives them the ’structural hole’ edge advantage…?
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