A decolonising view on design research and mapping.
Impossible Methods is our current pedagogical research and framework for design education.
The act of designing produces other designs into the world, and does so by intervening in an entanglement of processes, performances, interactions, narratives, and relations that are all context-dependent and socio-culturally informed. In other words, we understand the act of designing as one of producing material discourse; notwithstanding, we argue that the discourses produced by designed things cannot be anything but provisional and performative. In “Impossible Methods”, participants start out from a designed artifact they are asked to bring to the session – responding to a set of keywords or a statement given by us beforehand – and slowly unpack the networks that inform the existence of that object in the world, as well as its implications in-use. This unpacking can take the form of narrative, performance, mapping, or anything available and/or desired; what matters is not the hows, but the whats and the whys.
Photo credit: Boris Miletic
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.
A Yarn Session is a pedagogical endeavour we developed in the course of our PhD researches as a way to fostering a decentralised dialogue within and around designed objects and systems. To develop this format we looked primarily at Paulo Freire’s proposal for a Pedagogy of the Oppressed and its iteration in Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.
Speculations on Birth Control was a project developed between 2015 and 2016. The idea was to collectively untangle the complex terrain of birth control devices and artefacts, discussing the role of design in the establishment of discriminatory regimes of birth control, and speculating on how might these regimes change in a near future – and for whom.
A Yarn Session is a pedagogical endeavour we developed in the course of our PhD researches as a way to fostering a decentralised dialogue within and around designed objects and systems. “Auditory Governances” is an umbrella name for a series of Yarn Sessions developed within the context of the “Algerinha Vive” project.
These Yarn Sessions aimed at using the Algerinha story as a platform upon which conversations, stories, propositions, and debates in and around the themes tackled by the story – racism, classism, migration, violence – all having sound and listening practices as the main threads of the narratives.
Block Seminar at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen: 2SWS/3 ECTS –Winter Semester 2014/2015
Public spaces are systems constructed for things and people to fit in. Whenever these systems are upset by glitches that expose faults in its structures, reveal the fragility of its foundations, crack its thin, protective walls, said glitches are immediately alienated, excluded or confined to the farthest corners of society. Within those glitches, combinations of nationality, gender, race, class, language fluency and economic power form an unsettling recipe for the interplay of social friction. Who is welcome and who is undesirable? Who and what belongs to certain social spaces, and who and what do not?
Photo Credits: Luiz Gustavo F. Zanotello
Inspired by the tense political and social ordeal happening in Brazil as of 2013-14, we decided to develop a Workshop specifically aimed at brazilian designers. We were given the opportunity to make this workshop happen in three different settings (at a University, a NGO and at a design studio) and in two different formats (twice as a hands-on workshop and once as a round table). This diversity of formats and places surely made the discussions very different from one another and provided several perspectives on the subject. We think that this exchange of opinions, and, most of all, the possibility to talk openly about politics in different contexts in which the social role of design is often taken for granted is the most powerful outcome we could expect from this firs installment of our research.