This pedagogical research project is driven by a dissatisfaction with how design research methods overlook the role of the researcher subject in relation to the object of research by subscribing to models of knowledge in which the researcher occupies a position of authority over the researched, and which assume that knowledge may be generated from a ‘neutral’ standpoint.
Inspired by the radical pedagogical strategies outlined by Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, as well as those implemented in Zapatista communities, we have developed a series of projects and workshops that explore ideas within the realm of design education. In this broad project, our aim is work together with participants to unpack our positions as simultaneous observers and actors, situating ourselves and our research tools within the world we study. We explore the politics of artifacts, examine the power imbalances triggered by design decisions and suggest novel strategies for conducting research. In these experiments, we look into methodologies and strategies stemming from feminist, queer and decolonial studies, and assess how they might translate to a design context.
In Brazil, the Statute of the Unborn changes everything. Life is now legally defined as beginning at the moment of conception. Abortion has always been illegal, but now its definition is broader. The morning after pill and the IUD have been outlawed because they may prevent a fertilized egg from successfully implanting and developing. Even the birth control pill is now a highly controlled medication due to fears that it might be used – in higher doses – for the same purposes of the morning after pill.
Oniria is the first product to be released under the new legislation. Distributed through the country’s public healthcare system, Oniria consists of two parts: a small device which is clipped to the corner of the lips at night and tracks basal body temperature and hormonal levels; and an app that calculates when ovulation is supposed to happen based on the data collected by the device. The information is transmitted to the patient’s healthcare provider; in order to access this information, patients must contact their doctor. However, some premium versions of the product – not available in the public healthcare system – allow the patient direct access to their cycle data.
The “Ocupação Algerinha” or “Vila Algerinha”, formerly known as “Ocupação Dona Algerinha” was one of the biggest occupations in South America in the first decades of the twentieth-first century. During its five-year existence, the occupation was home to around 120.000 people, distributed over an area of approximately 1.33 square kilometers in Southeastern Brazil. The exact origins of the occupation are unknown, but it is believed that the families were initially part of a transmigrational group in Latin America which, in itself, was dissident from a larger group of families directly affected by the housing crisis that followed the wave of Coups d’Etat all over the continent. Due to increased incentives to real estate markets, progressive gentrification in big cities, and the suspension of most social housing programmes in South America, thousands of families – many of whom also unemployed – were forcefully expropriated from their homes, and hence started waves of peregrination and demonstrations all over the continent, particularly in the Southern Cone and Brazil.
“The bomb, singular, is hurled at us, plural, in timed steps, in rhythmic explosions.”
Performative lecture for Transmediale 2017, as part of the Singularities panel, curated and moderated by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke. Joining us on this panel were also Dorothy R. Santos and Rasheedah Phillips.
Speculative design is going through a troubled adolescence. Roughly fifteen years after interaction design duo Dunne and Raby first started talking about “critical design”, the field seems to have grown up a bit too spoiled and self-centered. Being a fairly young approach to product and interaction design, it seems to have reached a tipping point of confusion, rebellion, contrasting opinions and confrontations. Presently, from practitioners to theorists there seems to be little consensus about what the field is able to offer – and whether it is of any use at all. In this article we hope to pinpoint some reasons why this is so, while at the same time offering not possible, plausible or probable but preferable developments for the field.
Photo credit: Francisco Laranjo/Modes of Criticism