How can the ideas of timelessness and anachronism contribute to the decolonization of design practices in Latin America?
Article published in June 2016 at XRDS:Crossroads, a magazine from ACM. The full text is available on this link.
Cover image by XRDS: All rights reserved.
In Latin America, reality is always dangerously touching dystopia. Even though sometimes it feels that we are moving forward, violence and inequality keep pushing us back to realities much akin to our colonial past, and our history seems to repeat itself. The invasion of land, military coups, police brutality, violent regimes, and the genocide of indigenous and Afro-Latin peoples are all integral to the fabric of our reality. The cyclical nature of our history emerges as it becomes clear that the structures of power pushing us back to the past have, in fact, never left. We are left feeling like actors in a play, performing the same scenes over and over again.
Visual essay published in Spring 2016 at the special issue on ‘Mestizo Technology’ of the Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus, Vol.12, No. 1. Full essay available in this link.
This article discusses how Sonic Fiction—a concept developed by cultural theorist Kodwo Eshun—can be regarded as a cogent mechanism with which to develop Speculative and Critical Design (SCD) projects, using subjects of sound, music, and listening as their driving force. Through a dissection of the base premises of sonic fictions, this article aims to expand the perspectives taken so far by SCD projects in order to encompass languages other than those informed by the usual theories, as well as to broaden the spectrum of possibilities for sound-based practices within the field. In doing so, it suggests sonic fiction as a decolonial epistemology for assessing design questions.
Published at Design Issues Vol. 32, No. 2 – Spring 2016.
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
A 1–2 Guide for a well-placed Dystopian Design Project
Earlier this year we published a text on Medium which, apparently, said a few things that resonated quite well among design practitioners and researchers alike. In that text, we pointed out a general disregard for issues of race, class and gender privilege within Speculative and Critical Design projects and publications. For us, it was a serious problem we felt the need to call out. However, SCD projects and publications are still letting plenty of “narrow assumptions” sneak in, and they will only continue to reinforce the status quo of colonialism and imperialism rather than effectively challenging it.
To try to make things a bit easier, we developed this very simple and straightforward “Cheat Sheet” you, Speculative and/or Critical Designer, should consult when developing new projects. We strongly believe that following these simple steps may positively contribute to not only Speculative and Critical Design projects becoming more powerful in their line of questioning, but also avoiding the mishaps it sets itself up so boldly to criticise.
Photo Credit: “Landing of Columbus”, by John Vanderlyn (1847) – Wikicommons
Though critical and speculative design have been increasingly relevant in discussing the social and cultural role of design, there has been a distinct lack of both theory and praxis aimed at questioning gender oppression. Departing from an intersectional feminist analysis of the influences and origins of speculative and critical design, this essay questions the underlying privilege that has been hindering the discussion on gender within the discipline and its role in propagating oppression; it then goes on to propose the concept of a “feminist speculative design” as an approach aimed at questioning the complex relationships between gender, technology and social and cultural oppression.
This is a transcript of Luiza’s paper presentation at the Design Research Conference 2014 held in Umeå, Sweden. The full version of the paper can be downloaded as part of the Proceedings here or individually here. This research is funded by the Brazilian Council for Research and Development (CNPq).
On silence as property, commodity and instrument of oppression.
As a South American researcher within Sound Studies I often find myself sitting through lectures, symposia, presentations, performances and conferences about silence. Researchers are talking about silence in a very patronizing, eurocentric and northern-centred way — and because of that, creating a very dangerous dichotomy between “silent” and “noisy” societies. For these societies built on practices of colonization of the other, and yet very fearful of them, silence is not only a commodity but a private property, and as such protected by the capital. Exerting auditory control over oneself, be it by actively crafting one’s own soundscape or passively by silencing the other, is a strong form of aggression and oppression. People assume that there is a “right to quietness” but more often than not forget to ask whose quiet is meant in this right.
A rant on the blind privilege that permeates most Speculative Design projects.
Right now, Speculative and Critical Design preoccupations are directed towards nothing more than an alleged “lack of poetic dimensions” in our relationship with electronic objects. The “social narratives” and “criticism” so advertised by the great majority of its practitioners seem to only apply to the aesthetic concerns of the intellectual northern european middle classes. Those dystopian “critical futures” forget (or oversee it for a lack of empathy toward the subject matter) that the very electronic objects that they are talking about not only are — and will continue to be — accessible to a minimum percentage of the world’s population, but also that those who won’t have access to it will likely be exploited to make that reality happen, one way or another.