Online Conference, 25-26 March 2021 | SDN Symposium
SDN Symposium
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16:00 - 17:30


Feminisms, Intersectionality, Pluriverse, Relational Worldviews, Otherwise

Drawing on the transnational discourses that situate design in relation to different forms of systemic inequalities – such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism and others – this panel proposes to discuss "the other ways of worlding" within design education, theory and practice.

We will discuss feminist design pedagogies, futures and modes of hacking and fluid worldview, and explore how they can contribute toward socially transformative practices.

Fostering a horizontal exchange, we will open up the panel for a discussion with everyone participating in the session.

Panel speakers

Presented papers

  • Following the Otherwise – Contributions of Intersectional Feminist Design Pedagogies Towards Socially Transformative Practices

    by Maya Ober

    This paper discusses the preliminary findings of an interdisciplinary research project, situated between Anthropology of Education, Design, and Gender Studies, that engages in looking at the contemporary intersectional feminist design pedagogies and explores how they inform design practice towards the otherwise, basing on two case studies. Written in a hybrid form, merging academic writing, and creative non-fiction, this paper presents ethnographic data from the fieldwork. Employing ethnographic methods, in particular, participant observation allows the author to inquire how intersectionality can inform design pedagogy. What concepts, ideas, methods, and tools are employed and how they adapt and transform across the two programmes, depending on the cultural, political, spatial and social context on the macro level, and on the personal circumstances and background on the micro-level.

  • Design for a Feminist Future

    by Alison Place

    Consider the many ways design shapes our lives today: our homes, our work, our relationships, our community, our economy, our government, our education, our recreation. Design is at the root of our built environment. Therefore it is reasonable to say that designers, collectively, are world-builders. But what kind of world are they building? Whose world is it? Who benefits in this world? Who suffers? Design praxis has traditionally positioned itself as tool in service to capitalism, perpetuating the domination of wealth and exploitation of labor, while ignoring its complicity in social, political and environmental oppression. Designers have long been taught to be neutral actors and universal problem solvers, but neutrality is a stance that serves the oppressor and upholds the status quo.  The models we have created to serve the common good, such as social design and human-centered design, do not go far enough to address inequity and reverse harm. A human-centered approach does not necessarily target or elevate the experiences of those who are oppressed, nor does it explicitly address the systems that perpetuate their oppression. The common good is only served by centering those who are the most marginalized and the most vulnerable. Building a more equitable world, then, requires a systemic redistribution of power. An intersectional feminist approach to design generates a conceptual framework for interrogating and intervening in inequitable power structures through design. The theory of intersectionality, coined by law professor and activist Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), addresses inequities as they relate to complex intersections of social identity and the unique experiences of discrimination that take place at those intersections. Intersectionality rebukes the notion of universal design. Within feminism, the personal is universal. Plurality is the default. Feminism is typically associated with verbs such as “dismantle," "tear down,” and “fight,” but radical feminists are the original builders—of movements, of collectives, of relationships, of structures, of systems, of worlds. Contemporary feminism seeks to generate opportunities for intervention, making it a natural ally to design. The aim of this paper is to propose an intersectional feminist framework for design through five principles: critically examine power, center marginalized stakeholders, prevent harm + prioritize healing, embrace plurality + complexity, and think radically + act incrementally. By drawing on key tenets of feminist theory, a new framework is generated for design that serves the common good. It forces a critical re-imagining of our values, our methods and our roles as designers. In the feminist spirit of challenging the status quo, we must question existing ways of knowing and doing to create space for radical empathy and generative world-building.

  • Exploring Feminist Modes of Hacking as a Commoning Design Practice

    by Marie Dietze

    Free Open Source Technology culture and Feminism share a broader set of values that encompass and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, access and transparency. As a practice that understands complex interdependencies such of subject–object, nature–culture, an intersectional and new materialist approach potentially offers a contribution to all stages of an action-based design research process. As a case study, three disparate workshops were carried out, that tied to a tradition of feminist activist strategies by creating intimate environments – safer spaces – emphasizing on collectivity and facilitating emancipatory efforts. In order to provide space to explore infrastructural relations of commercial technology development, sovereignty and agency we emphasized on sexual health as a techno-political territory. Finally, this paper will reflect on a feminist mode of hacking as emancipatory practice from a design research perspective and how it can enrich the discourses around technology for an expanded concept design.

  • Fluid Worldviews: Designing within the Common Good

    by Ricardo Sosa, G. Mauricio Mejía, Joni Adamson

    This paper formulates a fluid approach to design for and within the common good that stems from the need to redefine the nature of design activity beyond corporate orientations and the role of designers beyond experts who control or lead the creation of new ideas for future products and services. We reflect on the core characteristics of designing by drawing from indigenous philosophies to sketch a tentative alternative approach to different understandings of design activities. The key premise here is that conventional design activity has a strong corporate ethos, so simply re-orienting it for the common good is insufficient. What is needed in this area is, instead, to more fundamentally re-examine and imagine other ways of conducting design activities, and what it can be, and how it can be conceived and carried out. A fluid design ethos seems at this point a comprehensive and sophisticated attitude towards a plurality and a pluriversality to shape design in the third decade of the twenty-first century.