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robertogreco : designfuturism   2

Design Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa: Post-Western Perspectives
"Design Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa: Post-Western Perspectives is a forum for pioneering technologists, curators and scholars from Accra, Nairobi, Cape Town, London and New York to discuss developments in digital design – robotics, gaming and computer imaging - on the African continent.

We tend to think about our world’s future as being discovered in the high-tech laboratories of American scientific research institutes, or debated in elite business and political forums held in the Alps - but less often in the West, do we think about our future as being designed by local tech communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In what is being called a transformative Digital Revolution, the African continent now hosts one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the world (the East African ‘Silicon Savannah’), a Pan-African robotics network (AFRON), burgeoning space programmes and a proliferation of digital innovation hubs.

The symposium analyses two major forces shaping the 21st century – innovations in digital technology and the ‘rise of Africa’ – through the lens of material culture and its interpretation. It also marks the official launch of an international network ‘Design Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa’ lead by Cher Potter, developed through a core partnership between London College of Fashion and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Some of the questions that will be examined are:

• What challenges and opportunities do a ‘digital revolution’ combined with unprecedented city and population growth on the African continent present for designers today?

• How is the combination of computer coding and digital fabrication resulting in new typologies of design in Sub-Saharan Africa?

• What composite communities are organising themselves around these new digital models?

• Are gaming environments based on local history and folklore heralding a wider move from European/US-centric worldviews to local ones?

• How might technology open up new ways for reading and categorising objects, both ancient and contemporary?

• How might we describe and test the term ‘postwestern’ in the context of design and curating?

Speakers:

Cher Potter
Cher Potter is V&A/LCF Senior Research Fellow. Her research interests include contemporary design on the African continent, and ‘post western’ models of curating and research. Prior to joining the V&A, she curated the 2013 European Impakt Arts Festival which explored ‘post western’ futures; and lead global cultural research at WGSN, the world’s largest design and fashion trends bureau, coordinating research into design tendencies across 22 countries including 8 African capitals. She was recognized as one of twelve ‘Future Visionaries’ by the 2013 Wellcome Trust Visioneers series.

Jonathan Ledgard
Jonathan Ledgard is Director of the Afrotech Initiative at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology, Lausanne, established to help pioneer advanced technologies in Africa. He is a leading thinker on risk, nature, and technology in near future Africa and spent the last decade as the Africa correspondent for The Economist, reporting extensively on Africa's mobile phone revolution. A founder of The Economist's Baobab blog, covering politics, economics and culture on the continent of Africa, he continues to contribute to the paper as well as to The New Yorker and other journals.

Ayorkor Korsah
Dr Ayorkor Korsah is Head of the Computer Science Department at Ashesi University College and Co-founder of the African Robotics Network, a community of institutions, organisations and individuals engaged in robotics in Africa. She is also a member of the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute and a TED Global Fellow. Her research interests include design at the intersection of algorithm design, artificial intelligence, and robotics; educating technologists for development in Africa; exploring the potential for participatory design in Africa; information, computing, and communications as keys to sustainable global development.

Kristina Van Dyke
Kristina Van Dyke is an independent scholar and curator. She was Director of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis from 2011 to 2015 and Curator for Collections and Research at the Menil Collection in Houston from 2005 to 2011. She curated the exhibition ‘Kota: Digital Excavations in African Art’ currently on display at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, which examines nearly 50 Kota guardian figures using a new digital database created by Belgian computer engineer Frederic Cloth to study and reveal the hidden histories of Kota reliquaries.

Wesley Kirinya
Wesley Kirinya is one of the first games developers in Africa and founder of Leti Arts gaming studio in Nairobi and Accra. As such, he operates within one of the world’s fastest growing tech and design hubs, the East African ‘Silicon Savanah’. He is pioneering the use of local African history in digital gaming environments, and developing a toolbox of African superheroes based on characters from African mythology – heralding a potentially wider move from European/US-centric worldviews to local ones.

Paula Callus
Paula Callus is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Animation at Bournemouth University and is completing her PhD at SOAS on Digital Animation in Sub-Saharan Africa. As an advocate for the role of Sub-Saharan animators within the broader history of ‘moving’ image, she has delivered papers on ‘Reading Animation through the eyes of anthropology’ at the Animation Studies Symposium 2010; ‘Locating Sub-Saharan African Animation within the ‘moving’ image’ at the Film and Television Screen Studies Conference 2013; and curated the Africa in Motion animation programme in Edinburgh.

Mugendi M’Rithaa
Mugendi M’Rithaa is Professor of Industrial Design at Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) - the world organisation for Industrial Design. His research interests include Participatory Design which incorporates the needs of end-users/clients; Universal/Inclusive Design; Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability; and design's potential in promoting equity and quality of life in Africa and beyond. He has coordinated workshops on ‘Designing a Prosperous Nation’ (Gaborone, 2004), and ‘Designing for New Realities’ (Helsinki, 2012).

Elvira Ose
Elvira Ose is Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, and curator of the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art 2015. She was Curator International Art at Tate Modern (2011 – 2014). At Tate, she took a leading role in developing Tate’s holdings of art from Africa and its Diaspora and working closely with the Africa Acquisitions Committee. She was responsible for Across the Board (2012–2014), a two-year interdisciplinary project that took place in London, Accra, Douala and Lagos. She recently co-curated Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist (2013).

Chairs:

David Pratten
Dr David Pratten is a Professor at the University of Oxford, specialising in the Social Anthropology of Africa. He was Director of the African Studies Centre from 2009-2013, one of the world’s leading centres for African Studies. His research interests include West African issues of youth, democracy and disorder; contemporary models of sociality, and colonial history. He is Co-Editor of ‘AFRICA: Journal of the International African Institute’ Cambridge University Press, which is the premier journal devoted to the study of African societies and culture.

Bill Sherman
Professor Bill Sherman is Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of York. He has published widely on the history of books and readers, the interface of word and image, and the relationship between knowledge and power. At the V&A, he is leading the development of the V&A Research Institute (VARI), which is testing new models for collaborative research that draws on history, theory and practice, and new ways of using collections to bring together the museum, the university and the creative industries.

Jane Harris
Dr Jane Harris is Associate Dean of Research at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London and Professor of Digital Design and Innovation. An advocate for the role that creative and transdisciplinary research in HE can play in the development and advance of design, science and industry, her own practice navigates physical material and technology interfaces. A recipient of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts Fellowship (NESTA) her pioneering CGI work has been internationally exhibited and publications include the co-authored book Digital Visions for Fashion+Textiles: Made In Code. "
designfuturism  speculativedesign  adrica  via:anne  designfiction  africa  2015  cherpotter  jonathanledgard  ayorkorkorash  kristinavandyke  wesleykirinya  paulacallus  mugendim'rithaa  elviraose  davidpratten  billsherman  janeharris  future  speculativefiction  design  robotics  gaming  comuterimaging  digital 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Critical Design Critical Futures - Critical design and the critical social sciences: or why we need to engagem multiple, speculative critical design futures in a post-political and post-utopian era
"We, anxious citizens of the affluent global North have some rather conflicted attitudes to futuring. In the broad realm of culture, "futures" have never been more popular. In the realm of politics, it is widely believed that those who engage in utopian speculations, are "out to lunch or out to kill[1].""



"Thoughtful reflections on widening inequality, class struggle, climate crisis, human-animal-machine relations, trans-humanism, the future of sexuality, surveillance and militarism can all be found in all manner of places. Consider Ronald Moore's Battlestar Galactica, the sci-fi novels of Ursula LeGuin, the Mars trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson, films such as District 9, Gattica, Elysium or Snowpiercer, the graphic novels of Alan Moore or Hayao Miyazaki's stunning retro-futurist animations. All these currents – and many others – have used futures as a narrative backdrop to open up debate about worlds we might wish to inhabit or avoid.

In the "real world" of contemporary politics, no such breadth of discussion can be tolerated.

"Futures" once played a very significant role in Western political discourse. Western political theory: from Plato onwards can reasonably be read as an argument about optimal forms of institutional configuring.

For much of the twentieth century, different capitalisms confronted different vision of communism, socialism, anarchism, feminism, black liberation, fascism. Rich discussions equally took place as to the possible merits of blended systems: from the mixed economy and the welfare state to "market socialism", mutualism to populism, associationalism to corporatism. Since the end of the Cold War, it would be hardly controversial to observe that the range of debate about political futures that can occur in liberal democracies has dramatically narrowed.

Of course, it would be quite wrong to believe that utopianism has gone away in the contemporary United States. Pax Americana, The Rapture, or a vision of the good life spent pursuing private utopias centered around the consumption-travel-hedonism nexus celebrated by "reality TV" is all alive and well."



"Design is important for thinking about futures simply because it is one of the few remaining spaces in the academy that is completely untroubled by its devotion to futures. Prototyping, prefiguring, speculative thinking, doing things differently, failing… and then starting all over again are all core component of design education. This is perhaps why Jan Michl observed that a kind of dream of functional perfectionism [4] has haunted all matter of design practice and design manifestos in the twentieth century."



""Utopian thought is the only way of speculating concretely about a projective connection between architecture and politics. To design utopias is to enter the laboratory of politics and space, to conduct experiments in their reciprocity. This laboratory – unlike the city itself – is a place in which variables can be selectively and freely controlled. At the point of application of the concrete, utopia ceases to exist". [8]

Moreover, if we think of the utopian imaginary as disposition, as opposed to the blueprint, we might well get a little further in our speculations. Sorkin makes a plausible case for the centrality of a utopian, ecological and political architecture of the future as a kind of materialized political ecology. His intervention can also remind us that hostility to design utopianism or any discussion of embarking on "big moves" in urban planning, public housing, alternative energy provision and the like, can itself function as a kind of "anti-politics". It can merely re-enforce the status quo, ensuring that nothing of substance is ever discussed in the political arena."



"Whilst Wright never actually uses the word design to describe what he is up to in his writings, his demand for concrete programmatic thinking resonates with John Dryzek's call for a critical political science concerned with producing and evaluating discursive institutional designs.

Further points of convergence between design and the critical social sciences open up when we recognize that design is not reducible to the activities of professional designers. As thinkers from Herbert Simon, to Colin Ward have argued, if we see design as a much more generalizable human capacity to act in the world, prefigure and then materialize, the reach and potential of future orientated forms of social design for material politics can be read in much more interesting and expansive ways.

The writings of Colin Ward and Delores Hayden can be fruitfully engaged with here for the manner in which both of these critical figures have drawn productive links between design histories of vernacular architectures and the social histories of self built housing, infrastructure and leisure facilities. Both demonstrate that there is nothing particularly new about the current interest in making, hacking or sharing. There are many "hidden histories" of working men and women embarking on forms of self-management, building co-operative enterprises and networks of mutual aid. In doing so they have turned themselves into designers of their own workplaces, communities and lives [12]. Such experiments in what we might call "worker centred design" continue to resonate. Attempts by trade unionists to define new modes of ownership with socially useful production (as represented by the Lucas plan), and the recent spate of factory takeovers in Argentina, all indicate that workers can be designers[13].

All manner of interesting potential convergences between critical design, futurism and social critique can additionally be found in the many experimental forms that contemporary urban-ecological activism has given rise to. Consider experiments in urban food growing, forms of tactical or pop-up urbanism, guerrilla gardening and open streets, attempts to experiment in solidarity economies, experiments with urban retrofitting or distributed energy systems or experiments with part finished public housing (that can be customized by their residents). All these currents have the potential to draw design activism and design-oriented social movements into direct engagement with critical theory, political economy and the critical social sciences."
damianwhite  2015  design  speculativedesign  speculativefiction  designfiction  futures  future  futurism  socialsciences  colinward  deloreshayden  herbertsimon  criticaldesign  designcriticism  kimstanleyrobinson  ursulaleguin  hayaomiyazaki  achigram  ronherron  utopia  utopianism  capitalism  communism  socialism  anarchism  feminism  sociology  politics  policy  maxweber  emiledurkheim  patrickgeddes  designfuturism  anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  tonyfry  erikolinwright 
may 2015 by robertogreco

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