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Sustainability, design & academia - talk at CS Breakfast 28.3.2014

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There is a strong interplay between sustainability, design and academy. First of all, our current sustainability is based on industrial mass-production and global reorganization of business, to which design as a catch-word for 21st century has had an integral relation in both developing industrial processes as well as in streamlining organizations for increased efficiency. Secondly, the academia as a producer research knowledge and education has a recognized connection to transition towards more sustainable lifeways. Today, the still increasing unsustainability of our being is putting more and more pressure structures of design and academia. The conventional roles for both are at change.

Every action can be perceived to be driven by person’s philosophical perspectives and approach of what can be known and what can be done with it. The challenging of conventional roles calls for more awareness on the epistemological starting points of development in both design practice and university development. How can it reflect the growing emphasis to share decision-making and knowledge creation to induce more sustainable results?

This presentation was given at Creative Sustainability Masters' breakfast event at Aalto University, Finland, on 28th of March 2014. It introduces the context of my doctoral research, and the processes through which I have progressed towards findings. While it presents a work in progress, the preliminary findings already suggest certain emphases to take further in planning design education in academia for more sustainable society.

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Sustainability, design & academia - talk at CS Breakfast 28.3.2014

  1. 1. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA Tatu Marttila (M.A. Industrial Design) Teacher, researcher, doctoral candidate Aalto University ARTS, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Why are we here? Why design and sustainability? Why design in academia? Why sustainability in academia? 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  3. 3. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Starting points… Every action can be perceived to be driven by person’s philosophical perspectives and approach of what can be known and what can be done with it. Philosophy addresses ontology – what is? how it is?... and epistemology – what can be known or done? Perceptions on sustainability and design depend on the above. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  4. 4. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland SUSTAINABILITY. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  5. 5. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Sustainability – what it means? The word sustainability is derived from the Latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus, up). Sustain can mean “maintain", "support", or "endure”. In ecology, sustainability defines how biological systems endure time and remain productive and diverse. For us – according to anthropocentric view – it defines how human systems endure. In being a definitive concept for systemic endurance, sustainability links to the sub-parts of human-biological system – for example the social, cultural and economic domains. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  6. 6. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland What sustainability – weak or strong? 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA Three pillars of sustainability Three pillars of sustainability – Nested within the ecological dimension VS.
  7. 7. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Whose sustainability? The history of contemporary economics can be traced back to early forms of merchant capitalism practiced in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, but only the recent industrialized mass production has led to the contemporary models of consumption. The current economic model bases itself on capital and returns on investments, benefitting the wealthiest. Combined with the currently still on-going imperative of economic growth it has led to ecological crisis, hitting hardest the poorest of societies. 1% vs. 99% 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  8. 8. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Sustainable development Before the end of 20 century, mass production and consumption in a fossil-oil fueled throw-away society had led to an overshoot in both pollution and in resource use. Sustainable development was coined to answer these notions. It calls for “maintainable” or “endurable” development. The concept - as Brundtland Commission it defined (1987) - has a strong anthropocentric approach: “[it] is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their[s]”. Calls for sustainable planning and design! But for what & who? 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  9. 9. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland DESIGN. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  10. 10. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Design – what and how? The etymology of “design” as a word, from around 16th century architecture: *De-sign* – to mark out, plan or designate. Planning includes iteration. Objects of design action as “design things": things that become domesticated with certain (design) methods… But they are still things and defined in culture and society, and community. For design action what counts is what is perceived to exist and how, and what can be known or done with it. While problems can have designed solutions, also problems themselves are defined – and designed. Who decides on problems? Design as problem solving activity, or as problem creation activity? 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  11. 11. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Design – who and for whom? Design action is linked to power: who has a say? Contemporary design challenges are often complex and require mediation between several concepts, contexts and interests. Accordingly, contemporary design action should be based on a broader view, created in collaboration between several experts and laypeople. "Design thinking" and reflection (problem-driven, solution oriented) can help such collaborative process by creating new integrations of signs, things, actions and environment. We all design but not all of us are professional designers – with a higher level of responsibility of design action. In the brief history of industrial design, designers have done their part by not questioning the context or even the practices of work. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  12. 12. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Sustainable design in the making Problems of sustainable development are complex in a sense that they have no definite right/wrong-solutions. Research and testing within a real-life problem context is needed, calling for expanded, systemic and collaboratively mediated, and design practice informed perspective. Hence, action for sustainability should have have a systemic and trans- scientific, but design-driven character. Still, contemporary consumer-centered design is unable to produce more sustainable solutions as long as it works along the current economic imperatives. Development in the decision-making systems is needed. Thus, design action is shifting its focus from crafts or industry to management of knowledge and actions in larger organizations and society. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  13. 13. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland ACADEMIA. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  14. 14. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Academia – what’s it worth? Academia means the “environment or community concerned with the pursuit of research, education, and scholarship”, or “a society or institution of distinguished scholars and artists or scientists that aims to promote and maintain standards in its particular field”. Contemporary challenges of sustainable design call for new types of knowledge and learning: inter-professional collaboration developing towards transdisciplinary dialogues, to induce collective knowledge creation. Different communities, backgrounds and personal types (education, profession, experiences and history) at interplay… Inter-professional potential? What about impact outside academe? 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  15. 15. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Academia – an emerging third role Traditionally the two roles for academia has been in producing the highest level of knowledge and the highest level of education. In the beginning of 21st century also a third role was brought in attention: societal impact. As if the two first were failing in this respect… What about learning outside academia or corporate research for knowledge creation? Academia – further and further away from real practice? Sustainable design could be perceived as one prime candidate to create developments in (and new) connections between academia (knowledge mediation and education) and society. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  16. 16. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland MY RESEARCH. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  17. 17. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Sustainability, Design and Academia – the interplay Creative Sustainability as a case example of “inter-professional design education for sustainability”. Emerging questions of interest: • What cultural/historical aspects have affected the development of such programme, and how has this contributed to the pedagogic/managerial approach taken further in it? • How is this approach represented the planning and running of the courses and their contents, or in planning programme activities? • How is this approach represented in the students perceptions of the programme, and of their future professional possibilities? •How does this contribute to sustainability? 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  18. 18. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Theory: What is happening here? 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  19. 19. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Researching Creative Sustainability 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA Creative Sustainability (CS) is a multidisciplinary MA program that initiated in fall 2010 in Aalto University. All CS students attend to common introduction courses (6-10 total ECTS). These students also attend to complete modules (up to 20 ECTS) that are engaging students from several study programs in real-life cases and in transdisciplinary teamwork. Creative Sustainability Master’s Program
  20. 20. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Creative Sustainability – the context of activities The pedagogical approach is based on “integrating teaching and research, problem-based learning, blended learning and strong connection to practical outcomes” >> constructive and open approach with rather open roles for teacher/tutor/student. Vague topical areas such as design and sustainability with a lot of independent elements like participating departments with existing courses >> open, shared, but fragmented “problem space”. Several degree programmes collaborating >> more challenges in management and coordination of common contents and topical elements. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  21. 21. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Research materials: 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA Interviews: • Interviews 1 (x4) – CS initiators (2010) • Interviews 2 (x6) – Teachers on shared courses (2011-2012) • Interviews 3 (x6) – Student interviews (2013) • Interview 4 – CS manager (2014) Additional material: • Field notes (2010-2013) • Student questionnaires (x4) (2010- 2012) • Learning diaries from shared courses (x4) (2012-2013) • Student feedback on shared courses (x4) (2011-2013) • Student feedback on CS (2012- 2013) Supporting material: • Planning documents • Course materials • Program activities
  22. 22. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Research process: The research utilizes mixed methods of analysis with a rather heterogenous set of data and interviews. Although some additional material is assessed quantitatively, the main focus is on qualitative assessment of the interview material. The particular focal areas for the analysis grow from the theoretical study and initial findings. These are then put under inquiry in the three sets of interviews. Some supportive material is used to illustrate findings. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  23. 23. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Example focal area: “Inter-professional design” Initial areas of interest identified from earlier research and literature, and from background material around case. Structuring the first set of interviews: •Identifying areas of interest (AoI), and units of analysis (UoA) •Focus areas: sustainability; management; instruments; Specific interest: “What issues play a role in inter-professional design activity and in setting education for it?“
  24. 24. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Interview set 1: CS initiators Four semi-structured interviews with “initiators” (2010) Emerging themes: • Primary: Novelty in CS; Communication; Outside links; • Secondary: Disciplinary expertise; Shared expertise; Self-promotion; Developing the inquiry: • Redefining constructs and areas of interest (AoI) • Developing units of analysis (UoA) • Iterated focus areas: context; communication; processes; history
  25. 25. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Interview set 2: CS teachers Six semi-structured interviews with “teachers” (2011-13) Emerging themes: • Primary: Student backgrounds; Team roles; Types of people; • Secondary: Problem-driven; No dichotomies; Negotiation; Developing the inquiry: • Iterated focus areas: flow of learning, support, feedback Supporting material and examples: • Identifying examples and other supportive data
  26. 26. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Supporting data: CS student feedback Used as/for validating and testing hypotheses emerging from themes and issues emerging… Examples of emerging contradictions (Marttila, 2012): 1) Instruments (tools; language; activities) 2) Outcomes (definitions of problem, setting & goals; shared understanding) 3) Management (during courses; between schools; within teams) >> Towards the identification of conflicts (and solutions)… 4/2/2014 2DoD Summer School 2013 | TRANSDISCIPLINARY PLATFORMS: Inter-professional Design Education for Sustainability Marttila, T. (2012) "Between a Problem Context and a Problem Setting: Twofold reflection in inter-professional design collaboration for sustainability." In: Proceedings of DRS 2012.
  27. 27. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Proceeding towards findings: The earlier exemplifies the process towards creating better understanding of the phenomenon. Emerging “conflicts & “solutions” rise through cross-referencing interview material from different sets. Along the way new focal areas are introduced: inter-professional design and sustainability; flow of learning, support, feedback; emerging professionalism, social networks… The work leads into suggestions for improvement and development of such education and such program: for example open management, communication of disciplinary roles, self-reflection of personal background.
  28. 28. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland CONCLUSIONS. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  29. 29. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Design education for sustainability Instrumental approach to sustainable design is not enough. The question is not only on sustainability, but how we mediate knowledge creation collaboratively. It is not only about inter-professional abilities, but about language and how to relate epistemologies – parts of the life- views based on cultural, personal and disciplinary backgrounds. And it is not only about design process, but about developing knowledge creation, decision-making and participation. To promote sustainability, also education must embrace and build upon similar aspects. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  30. 30. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland Design platforms for sustainability The challenge of sustainability is to design a new way of being. Design practice, education, economic activity and interaction within the social have to be addressed as a whole. One aim of sustainable design should therefore be to create the supportive platforms that enable better awareness, more informed collaboration and more genuine interaction, with a wide public audience and several stakeholder groups, co-aligned under novel directions. CS can be perceived as one example. The potential to sustainability provided by the (design) academia is thus dictated in the extent to which education can answer to this aforementioned call. 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA
  31. 31. Aalto University ARTS Helsinki, Finland THANK.YOU! 3/28/14 CS Breakfast talk 2014 | Tatu Marttila: SUSTAINABILITY, DESIGN AND ACADEMIA

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