Design Education 2050: Mutations in the Gap


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Presentation made at ICSID Design Education Conference 2009 in Singapore on Nov 22, 2009.

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  • If you ask me why I am presenting such quotations at an industrial designers conference, I owe no apology. I am just being Indian in my approach. An Archimedean point is a hypothetical vantage point from which an observer can objectively perceive the subject of inquiry, with a view of totality. The ideal of "removing oneself" from the object of study so that one can see it in relation to all other things, but remain independent of them, is described by a view from an Archimedean point. The expression comes from Archimedes , who supposedly claimed that he could lift the Earth off its foundation if he were given a place to stand, one solid point, and a long enough lever. This is also mentioned in Descartes' second meditation with regards to finding certainty, the 'unmovable point' Archimedes sought. [1]
  • Powerhouse street view mash up by Paul Hagon (2008) where he has utilised the geo-coded images and matched them with Google Street View for a great example of ‘then and now’ comparisons.
  • Mechanical, utilitarian and functional = banausic
  • Design Education 2050: Mutations in the Gap

    2. 2. If you worry about the past and get aggrieved about the future, the present is obliterated from your vision. Then the crocodile of the time process will consume you completely. - The Upanishads "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Jesus Christ
    3. 3. The paper emerges from the Indian context and then fans out to the Mothership. Moving from THIS to THIS , And more of THIS , they say, is the FUTURE ! And DESIGN EDUCATION must serve this end, so they say , despite buzzwords like SUSTAINABILITY .
    4. 4. The PRESENT is unique for India. It holds HYBRIDITY suspended between PAST & FUTURE
    5. 5. This HYBRIDITY is emergent, thrives on MUTATIONS that arise in the GAP between PAST & FUTURE
    6. 6. HYBRIDITY/MUTATIONS emerge in the gap between the crises in education & culture. HYBRIDITY/MUTATIONS emerge in the gap between the crises in education & culture. “ Estrangement of human beings from the world and educating for a world that is or is becoming out of joint” – Hannah Arendt The “fighting experience” in the “small non-time space in the very heart of time” is to be discovered and ploddingly paved anew by each new generation. This results in spaces that are “configurations of spirit”.
    7. 7. Design Education now focuses on sustainability & systems thinking to counter crisis. The process is based on projections of the future as reaction to failed systems.
    8. 8. The Gene Manipulation Programs hold possibilities but neither their value-systems nor consequences are predictable. The Space Race is an attempt to escape the imperatives of such failures. The messed-up Climate Change discussions are the admission of and result of gross failure of human-designed , human-made systems.
    9. 9. PROJECT VISION Project Vision addresses fundamental inequities by shifting the notion of a school from a fixed place to a set of spaces that exist and operate simultaneously within and without the community. It does this in a way that flows of knowledge and understanding are created at and through many levels -physical, emotional, cognitive and psychological –in ways that interact making the end transformative. Project Vision has been developing four inter-related, non-linear and integrated steps through which learners can develop intuition, imagination and intelligence. Expanding the Inner Self building for ‘presencing’, deep connectedness with nature, finding the essential “self” and creating generational moments. Designing the Mind- this involves working with simplicity at the right scale, an efficient and frugal use of resources, sound regional economics and social resilience. It is often targets the uniqueness of places and uses play, as a preamble to real life. • Wellness -this addresses vulnerabilities, targets deprivations, involves being critical and often, in curricular terms this means including the excluded • Generating Freedoms- fundamentally this involves creating conditions for the expression of constructive dissatisfaction or creative discontent; it involves going beyond the notion of capital as narrowly instrumental and utilitarian to one that encompasses the whole-social, cultural, physical, environmental and economic All of the above have been incorporated in a year-long project -based learning set of modules called “Dharithri” or Mother Earth .
    10. 10. WATERCASTING At the Aspen Design Challenge 2009, the theme was “Designing Water’s Future”. Most of the “winning” solutions came from the generic design approach of creating products, providing technical solutions. Srishti’s ‘rejected’ proposal had to do with “Terracitizenry” and “Mothership” consciousness . We proposed a festival as a solution – the Water Mela. A festival is a dynamic that moves outwards from the space of community- as-culture and the “common good” to specific and collective technical solutions rather than the other way around. Coming from a culture that designed festivals eons ago to preserve the “spirit” of community, this seemed the “natural” way to go to contest linear technological fixes maintaining the dominant “culture” of culture-disruption or destruction and consumable-oriented, stop -gap envisioning. Festivals rooted in the “force” of the cultural past and aware of the “burden” of tradition can be re-created in emergent/mutant ways in the gap between past and future . Then they are part of flow and are not disruptive to the whole – the skin expands. The festival contains the expanding spirit of the community-as-culture committed to sharing and inclusivity. A Water Mela would have been community-as-culture’s counter to corporate ownership and exploitation of the basic need of a community like water. This opportunity remains!
    11. 11. <ul><li>HERE COME THE GENE POETS ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>“ArtScience Bangalore , winners of best presentation and my iGEM highlight, are a truly ground-breaking team of art students led by artist/designer Yashas Shetty. The team learnt biology with the help of India’s National Centre For Biological Science , producing E. coli that smell of rain. They took synthetic biology to new groups, running workshops to teach designers to build working DIY microscopes using webcams and ran creative workshops at a school for the urban poor. This idea of &quot;human practices&quot; – that is, exploring the ethical and social implications of the technology – was a new focus this year …“ </li></ul><ul><li> - Building new life forms at the iGEM Jamboree ( By Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg | 09 November 2009 ) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Our endeavor as “outsiders” is to bring our training in the arts and design to synthetic biology. Over this summer, we learnt the tools and techniques of synthetic biology and developed a piece of life which reflects our concerns, namely, the cultural, ethical and aesthetic implications of Synthetic Biology. Using a DIY approach and getting our hands “wet” was a critical element in the learning process. Our construct synthesizes Geosmin, an enzyme normally produced by cyanobacteria and actinobacteria. The biosynthesis of geosmin from farnesyl diphosphate is catalyzed by a single enzyme germacradienol/ germacrene D synthase. E. coli, does not bear a gene that codes for this enzyme. </li></ul><ul><li>We have expressed this gene in different strains of E. coli. Geosmin is responsible for producing the earthy smell when rain falls after a dry spell of weather. “   </li></ul>
    12. 12. THE KABIR PROJECT Re-interprets the life of the 15th century saint poet Kabir through films and music concerts. The public dissemination of Kabir’s philosophy through art allows for the philosophy to be realized through a subtle politics. Here art is used for the spiritual to be realized as political action for equity. The Kabir project brings together the experiences of a series of on-going journeys in quest of this 15th century North Indian mystic poet in our contemporary worlds. Started in 2003, these journeys inquire into the spiritual and socio-political resonances of Kabir's poetry through songs, images and conversations. We journey through a stunning diversity of social, religious and musical traditions which Kabir inhabits, exploring how his poetry intersects with ideas of cultural identity, secularism, nationalism, religion, death, impermanence, folk and oral knowledge systems. The core inspiration of the project is music, and Kabir comes alive in 4 documentary films, 10 audio CDs and poetry books through the power of song. This is a 6-year initiative undertaken by filmmaker Shabnam Virmani as an artist-in-residency project at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India. The project is supported by the Ford Foundation, New Delhi.
    13. 13. THE MASH-UP COUNTER TO ESTRANGEMENT “ Education must take into account the process of estrangement from the world …The problem of education in the modern world lies in the fact that by its very nature it cannot forego either authority or tradition, and yet must proceed in a world that is neither structured by authority nor held together by tradition (my emphasis).” -Hannah Arendt Mash-ups allow the learner to move in the widening gap between the ‘no longer’ and the ‘not yet’, the region where mutations eventually appear, or can appear for that matter. Mash-ups are the answer to the increasing pressure upon learners as the world collapses around them in a sea of information, as the globe gets squeezed from a watermelon into a lemon. Mash ups squeeze people, ideas ,things into new shapes in the present. Mash-ups leverage the force of the past and the burden of tradition along with the technologies of the present to give us mutations that change the directionality of the future.
    14. 14. FROM BANAUSIC TO AUTHENTIC As designers fabricate or make systems and artifacts and worlds that inevitably feed into the ‘consumer culture’, are they unable to distinguish between means and ends? “A clearly recognizable end, the final product, determines and organizes everything that plays a part in the process – the materials, the tools, the activity itself and even the persons participating in it; they all become mere means toward the end and are justified as such”. The Greeks considered such fabricators to be philistines with a banausic mentality; utilitarians who threatened the realm of culture.
    15. 15. VALUE AND COMMODIFICATION The notion of ‘value’ is relevant if one remembers that it was Karl Marx who pointed out that nobody ‘seen in his isolation produces value’ but that products “become values only in their social relationships”. The student designer or artist, given the relativisation of values, then is compelled to conceive and implement projects under duress – firstly, the duress of process and, secondly, the duress of having to prove that it has social value. EMBODIMENT A student who is unable to demonstrate that his or her learning is of “social value” NOW has the opportunity to enter mash-up communities and cultures and construct his/her self in “schizo” ways that might be totally different and yet authentic. This is the point at which mash-ups and embodiment come together – individuals and collectives become bodies – sites of expression in theatre, protest, performance or terrorism … the body is the last site of protest.
    16. 16. CROSS-CULTURAL SHIFT: IS IT POSSIBLE TO MOVE FROM: “ Culture is being destroyed in order to yield entertainment …Those who produce for the mass media ransack the entire range of past and present culture in the hope of finding suitable material …this material, moreover, cannot be offered as it is; it must be altered in order to become entertaining, it must be prepared to be easily consumed.” TO: “ A real cross-cultural attitude demands that the very paradigms, the very categories, the very forms of thinking, and the presuppositions of that other culture become integrated in the very vision I have of my own culture and the other culture. . . . It is not that there are new things in the panorama; it is that the panorama is a different one.”
    17. 17. <ul><li>DESIGN EDUCATION MANIFESTO FOR 2050 - NOW </li></ul><ul><li>Design Education must shift its emphasis from the “human-made” to “human-making” (Terracitzenry). </li></ul><ul><li>Design Education must subvert consumer culture to create equitable, sharing community-as-culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Design Education must shift from pursuing a temporal desire-creation-consumption cycle to authentic meaning-making. </li></ul><ul><li>Design Education must shift from body-mind-spirit and self-Mothership dichotomies to body-mind-spirit and self-Mothership unities (Terraforming). </li></ul><ul><li>Design Education must shift from affirming collective and selective world-rape to healing-world re-making. </li></ul>
    18. 18. These shifts must happen NOW as a “fighting experience” in the gap between past & future. 2050 does not matter.