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December 11, 2010

What should design researchers research? Report from 2020

I was invited by the Design Research Society to speak at their symposium in Birmingham [UK] . Their theme: "2050 and All That".

So first I did a quick scamper through Peak Everything: peak climate, peak biodiversity, peak oil, peak food, peak water, peak credit and so on; I touched on Adbusters' notions of a Doomsday Machine Economy and True Cost economics; and I repeated my proposition that we are all emerging economies now

For part 2 of my talk, I tabled two keywords that I find work well in re-framing our situation as "terrible - but not hopeless". The first word was catagenesis which means “renewal through reversion to a simpler state - followed by the emergence of a novel form of society”. The second word was resilience which means [in the words of Transition Towns] "the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance, and reorganize, while undergoing change". I concluded this second part of my talk with the proposition that design research needs to evolve from a human-centered to an all-of-life-centered activity.

In preparing part 3 of my talk, I had a good idea that, given what I know about design researchers, they'd be thinking by this point: "yeah, yeah, end of civilization, yadda yadda - but where's the cool research opportunity?"

So I went to Birmigham prepared. I asked the design researchers to imagine, with me, that a Doors of Perception University had been established and that, in 2020, a degree-awarding ceremony was about to take place:

Twenty-five PhDs were to be awarded at this ten-years-from-now ceremony - and I had brought along copies of the theses of the successful candidates to show them. And here they are:

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[I believe Dena Fam may aleady be busy on just this PhD, in whiucg case apologies].

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Posted by John Thackara at December 11, 2010 08:52 AM


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