Design in the space between stories : design for social innovation and sustainability–from responding to societal challenges to preparing for societal collapse
Abstract: We seem to be approaching the end of the era we know as Industrial Civilization. If this is the case, we will leave a stable period of progress and growth and enter into a long period of decline where many of our systems and support structures will collapse. From the perspective of how we are accustomed to living our lives and the narratives we live by, the future looks dark. How will this affect an optimistic, creative, and future-making discipline like design, a discipline which emerged out of the industrial revolution? What can design offer in the transition from industrial civilization to a new society where we can survive and thrive? What is the task of design if not to design for the market economy? What possible futures will designers then propose? Designers will need to learn to navigate future paths: those that will likely lead to sustainability and those that will likely lead to collapse. In this thesis, I explore the two paths, or scenario storylines, of Great Transition and Conventional Development. I consider the space between these stories—the space between sustainability and collapse—as a design space with many possible futures to explore. I propose that designers not only address societal challenges with the belief that we can solve them and live in a world that is both sustainable and resilient, but also consider what it means to fail and address the prospect of societal collapse. What kind of world will we end up in then? And what can we do to avoid a collapse or else prepare ourselves for a life in a world of societal breakdown? In the search for the answers to these questions, I explore design things and how values and frames as well as stories and design fictions can be used by constellations of concerned citizens when exploring possible futures.
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