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Presence and agency (with tweets) · davidpetersimon · Storify
"A collection of tweets from A Parede on issues within design research today"

"Pedro Oliveira

If there's one thing I learned so far in my journey into Design Research, is that designers don't learn/know/care how to do research. What I mean with that is: bad research does not "incite debate", it only brings criticism on how bad it is. What I found out, though Is that the biggest part of this failure comes from not acknowledging your own standpoint as a researcher. As simple as it might sound... Design researchers often think that their presence/point of view does not configure in itself a form of politics, and that is really naïve. and it saddens me to see that with not only with students but also with more "experienced" researchers. Bad research is bad research, period.

Luiza Prado

Adding to @pedroliveira_ 's tweets I've been thinking abt how often design research projects that focus on minority communities have nobody that actually belongs to/identifies w those communities on the design team. At best, they work w a facilitator/local leader which sends the message that those are ppl who can, at best, be interesting research objects, but never researcher subjects. No agency. Seen SO MANY DESIGN RESEARCH groups in germany working w turkish immigrant communities, w/o ONE SINGLE researcher of actual turkish descent. Which doesn't mean that the research is automatically invalid, but it does mean that in the world of design research these ppl don't get to have their own agency. Research objects, not researcher subjects. And what is the point of minding your methodology, team, whatever, if you don't give agency to those who are actually impacted by this?"
pedrooliveira  luizaprado  aparede  design  designresearch  agency  methodology  objectification  politics 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Cheat Sheet for a Non (or Less) Colonialist Speculative Design — Medium
"Earlier this year Luiza and I published a text here on Medium where we, 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.

Naturally, a good number of other design practitioners and researchers claimed we were exaggerating, being unfair or “augmenting” the facts so as to fit our own purposes, whatever they were. However, questions very similar to ours were raised by others during this year’s Design Research Society Conference in Umeå, Sweden, and we were also invited to speak about our positions in July at the Open Design Conference in Barcelona, Spain. In the meantime, other essays that echoed our concerns showed up, mostly from other designers that were actually catalysts of the discussion that originated our text in the first place. All in all, there is an elephant in the room that demands some attention, and these texts elaborate and expand considerably what our own writing left off.

Still, those texts and the subsequent reactions to them only showed us what we expected: (1) these are issues that are still in need to be acknowledged and dealt with as serious concerns and (2) what we initially set off to challenge lies well beyond “representation” or the danger of tropes and tokenism – unlike most of the criticism we received seem to think. Notwithstanding, 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. This is (very) loosely based on Sandrine Micossé-Aikins’ “7 Things You Can do To Make Your Art Less Racist” – which is a strongly recommended read for before and after you get through this cheat sheet of ours – as well as María del Carmen Lamadrid’s “Social Design Toolkit”, also a mandatory read. Ready?

Cheat-Sheet for a Non (or Less) Colonialist Speculative Design

1. Acknowledge the Truth. This one we’ll borrow straight from Sandrine. If you were born in Europe, there is a good chance your country had (or has) colonies and gave (or gives) them a very, very bad time. It is not your fault, and no, #NotAllEuropeans are like that. We also know that the USA, though a former British colony on its own, has given itself the task to treat other parts of the world as if its own backyard, something we call imperialism. Indeed we all know this, but so should you – it is a fact you cannot and will not change. So acknowledge that part of your privilege comes from the very fact that your society has built – and still builds – its wealth upon the disaster of others.

2. Check Your Facts: ask yourself “does my dystopia happen already in other ‘invisible’ (sic) places of the World?” It is good to know if what would be terrible for you and your audience isn’t already reality for others. Before asking “what if…?” ask “is there…?” Particularly if you consider how colonialism helped shape the power inequalities and uneven economic relations we currently live in.
(Tip: Wikipedia is a good starting point, but be creative and don’t stop there.)

3. “Am I developing more ‘civilised’, ‘highbrow’ or ‘educated’ solutions for ‘endangered’ places in the world?” It might be that you already know the answer to this, but double-check it. Constantly challenge your design decisions and see if they do not reflect narrow-minded views of how aesthetics could or should be. Minimalism and clinical asepsis are not the only aesthetically pleasant values of design.

4. “Is my scenario/story/object somewhere else’s local aspect/culture, appropriated as to fit my own?” If yes, please refer to point 2 and check if your culture/country did not already do that a few years ago by the use of violence and other less friendly means.
(Tip: start from the basics of Cultural Appropriation. Yes, it is a very controversial topic and there is no consensus about it. Yes, you have to read it anyway.)

5. “Does my dystopian scenario contain the following:”
a) Slaves or any depiction of middle-class (white) people suddenly turned into slaves;
b) People of Color in the role of Robots, Subaltern or others in general;
c) Objects coming from places that are or were colonies, whose aesthetics look invariably “recycled” or “kitsch”.

6. Is my research biased by my own privileged views of how society could or should be? Or in other terms, “am I b(i)asing my research exclusively on authors and references that come exclusively from colonialist countries?” This is very important, because as Raewyn Connell explains in her Southern Theory (2007), much of the so-called “canons” of social sciences come from northern, metropolitan authors whose work inquiries the “primitiveness” of the colonies.

7. “Does my textual production contain any of the following words:”
a) “global” for economic models;
b) “neutral” for cultural models;
c) “universal” for theoretical models;

8. In case you succeed on all of the above and will most definitely go on portraying your dystopia, the final question is: “have I consulted myself with other people, designers or not, from other places of the world to check if this is not a #firstworldproblem?”

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.

To be once again very clear, we are also not advocating that every single SCD Project should talk about, tackle or depict issues of colonialism and imperialism. Rather, we say “know where you come from and know where your privileges are.” If “all design is ideological”, as Dunne says, do take that statement seriously.

Giving yourself the task to stop navel-gazing and to always second-guess your own decisions is not a shame. It is for the better, trust us."

[See also: https://medium.com/@luizaprado/questioning-the-critical-in-speculative-critical-design-5a355cac2ca4 ]
speculativedesign  criticaldesign  luizaprado  pedrooliveira  2014  colonialism  designcolonialism  imperialism  dunne&raby  designfiction  speculativefiction  fionaraby 
september 2014 by robertogreco
A PAREDE ツ hello[at]a-pare.de
"Oh Hai! We are A Parede, a brazilian design research practice in Berlin.
Our research interests are in Speculative and Critical Design, Gender and Sound Studies."
luizaprado  pedrooliveira  criticaldesign  speculativedesign  designresearch  gender  sound  berlin  brazil  brasil  aparede  designfiction 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Design in Times of Crisis
"What is it?

Design in Times of Crisis is a work-in-progress reflection for a scenario of the everyday present and near future. It is also a series of short-term block seminars (TBA).

It is part of the PhD investigation of two Brazilian design researchers located in Berlin, Germany: Pedro Oliveira - www.partidoalto.net - and Luiza Prado - www.doisedois.net.

It is through an observation of the current state of affairs mostly outside the so-called “developed world” that we aim to construct our scenario. Of course many of our concerns also do apply to other places in the world, but our focus is more looking home.

This is, of course, nothing new. Its idea stemmed from the very nice "Design for the New Normal" developed by Superflux (if you ended up here, you should definitely check out their work). We think that their outline is indeed fruitful and very necessary, but coming from a different political and social background there are some elements we’d like to disagree, and others we’d like to suggest.

Differently from them, however, we decided to call it the "Times of Crisis" because it does concern the immediate present and the probable future. We think that, as design researchers, it is of paramount importance that we investigate this projection and prepare ourselves for it.

In a nutshell, the links posted here will fall in a few categories, which are the characteristics we are framing as constituents of this scenario. They are:

All Technology is Proprietary

Brands and the State will control your technology. What they do is only to lure you into using their services in order to collect data about everything, everywhere. Crowdsourcing at its best. The obsession with the “quantified self” only leads to the loss of privacy and the more proprietary the technology is, the less control you have over your data. In these times of crisis, people comply with giving their data over to brands and the state under an alleged “full disclosure” of their use. In poorer and emergent countries, particularly, the use of proprietary technology, that is, branded tech, is still a form of social and economical affirmation and status, particularly in lower classes. Open-source tech can and will come to the empowerment of small groups and initiatives, but consumerist ideals and patterns are likely to boost, particularly when formerly poorer classes/countries start to gain more economical power.

You Are what You Consume

Brands and consumption are the biggest form of social insertion. Brands explore that ad infinitum and you belong to those groups where your favorite brand fits in. With the rise of a “new middle class” in developing countries, the patterns of consumption are likely to change and grow; the brand is the greatest form of social status. Musical movements in favelas and ghettos praise brands as something to be desired and proudly worn or used, while at the same time brands try to detach themselves from these movements to protect their capital.

Surveillance is Desired

Reality shows become the norm, they are a preparation for an acceptance of a Police State (cf. Laurel Halo in The Wire). Surveillance gives the false illusion of safety, of “watching out against the other”, but also of being watched against yourself. Drones and Bugs are everywhere for the sake of peace maintenance and the quantified self. Proprietary Tech collects your data with games and research projects. Your data is everyone’s data.

Cities are Corporations are Cities

The association (both legal and illegal) of Business and State leads to a City whose form of social and urban control relies on the interests of brands. Big industries support “eco-initiatives” in order to promote a false state of sustainability while securing their own profit through exploring real estate, mobility and other issues that should be of concern from the State. (cf. Carlos Vainer) - also, prices go crazy because regulation is left to a “minimal State” (Estado Mínimo). Giant sporting events and conferences sell an image of a city devoid of its poorer and “unwanted” social components in favor of its market value as commodity.

——

Here in this blog we aim to collect evidence, reflections and projections for this scenario.

A good starting point for the scope of this discussion you can find here. In this text, we pointed out some things we think that are problematic when approaching Speculative and Critical Design from a narrow perspective of the world.
Naturally, this is an open, stream-of-consciousness idea. Comments, critique and additions to it are more than welcome.

Shout it loud at pedroliveira [at] udk-berlin or luiza.prado [at] udk-berlin.de "
luizaprado  pedrooliveira  design  everyday  present  future  nearfuture  superflux  tomesofcrisis  crisis  technology  crowdsourcing  data  control  consumption  brands  branding  surveillance  policestate  laurelhalo  safety  privacy  security  cities  corporations  corporatism  urban  urbanism  socialcontrol  systainability  carlosvainer  estadomínimo  minimalstate  commodities  business  law  legal  specialinterests  anabjain 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Questioning the “critical” in Speculative & Critical Design — Designing the Future — Medium
"In the past few days I’ve been following this excellent and profoundly enlightening discussion [http://designandviolence.moma.org/republic-of-salivation-michael-burton-and-michiko-nitta/ ] on MoMA’s Design and Violence page. The conversation, initiated by John Thackara’s comments on Burton Nitta’s project “Republic of Salivation” [http://www.burtonnitta.co.uk/repubicofsalivation.html ], was further developed in the comment section. The issue at stake was the presumed naivety of the project while dealing with a subject that might be dystopian to some, but in some other parts of the world it has been the reality for decades. During the — still ongoing — debate, one of the most pressing issues to emerge was the political accountability of Speculative and Critical Design (from now on, referred to as SCD) or its lack thereof.

When questioned on the validity of a discipline that consistently dismisses and willingly ignores struggles other than those that concern the intellectual white middle classes — precisely the environment where SCD comes from — designer James Auger [http://www.auger-loizeau.com/ ] responded:
What is this obsession with class systems? The UK may have its financial problems but most of us stopped obsessing about these divides in the distant past.

As a brazilian designer based in Germany struggling to understand her position in the blindly privileged environment of SCD, Auger’s reaction sounds all too familiar. Being able to ignore things like class, gender and race is the clearest demonstration of privilege: you don’t notice it (or rather, sometimes knowingly choose not to) precisely because it doesn’t affect you. As a discipline theorised within the safe confines of developed, northern european countries and practiced largely within an overwhelmingly white, male, middle class academic environment, SCD has successfully managed to ignore, or at best only vaguely acknowledge, issues of class, race and gender (with few [http://superflux.in/ ] exceptions [http://sputniko.com/ ]). Instead, the vast majority of the body of work currently available in the field has concentrated its efforts on envisioning near futures that deal with issues that seem much more tangible to their own privileged crowd. Projects that clearly reflect the fear of losing first-world privileges — gastronomical, civil or cultural — in a bleak, dystopic future abound, while practitioners seem to be blissfully unaware (or unwilling to acknowledge, in some cases) of other realities.

The visual discourse of SCD also seems interestingly devoid of people of color, who rarely (if ever) make an appearance in the clean, perfectly squared, aseptic world imagined by these designers-researchers. Couples depicted in these near-future scenarios seem to be consistently heterosexual; there is no poverty, there are no noticeable power structures that divide the wealthy and the poor, or the colonialist and the colonised; gender seems to be an immutable, black-and-white truth, clearly defined between men and women, with virtually no space for trans* and queer identities (let alone queer and trans* voices speaking for themselves). From its visual discourse to its formulations of near-future scenarios, SCD seems to be curiously apathetic and apolitical for a discipline that strives to be a critical response to mainstream perceptions of what design is, and what it should do.

So answering Auger’s pressing question — “What is this obsession with class systems?” —, well: we are obsessed with class systems because we can’t help it. Because, in contrast to most of the practitioners in the field of SCD, we do not have the privilege of not thinking about issues of race, class and gender. Because your dystopia is happening to us right now. It’s happening when we get harassed because of our gender, our class or our ethnicity. It’s happening when a brazilian citizen is killed by british police with no explanation, apology or reason other than being a foreigner [http://www.theguardian.com/uk/menezes ]. It’s happening because where I come from, the reality suggested by The Republic of Salivation isn’t so far-fetched [http://thebrazilbusiness.com/article/cost-of-living-in-brazil-ndash-cesta-basica ]. And because if we don’t call out your privilege — though you dismiss it as “misguided suggestions of privilege” — this is what will keep on happening: SCD will never evolve past a discipline stuck in its own little universe of weather forecasts and smart fridges, incapable of seeing how shallow its own speculations are, and how much more relevant and inclusive they could be.

Right now, SCD’s 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. It is extremely frustrating to observe how SCD practitioners depict a dystopian universe where technology comes to paint a world in which their own privileges of their own reality are at stake, while at the same time failing to properly acknowledge that design is a strong contributor to the complete denial of basic human rights to minorities, right here, right now. Those sleek, shiny gadgets and sentient objects and robots SCD designers are keen to portray come only to the aid of white, middle class, cisgendered heterosexual citizens. But no SCD dystopian scenario takes into account that this pervasive “technological menace” will most probably be manufactured in China, Indonesia or Bangladesh (as suggested by Ahmed Ansari [https://twitter.com/aansari86 ] in the comments section in the original post). And I cannot help but reinforce that SCD is a practice whose origins and current developments, so far, happen within colonialist countries.

Despite all of its shortcomings, I do believe that SCD has something necessary and valid to offer to society. I do believe that design is a powerful language, one that it is perfectly positioned to provide relevant social and cultural critique, and that envisioning near future scenarios might just help us reflect on the paths we want to take as a society. In order to truly achieve these goals, however, SCD needs to be held accountable for its political and social positions; it urgently needs to escape its narrow northern european middle class confines; it needs to talk about social change; it needs more diversity, both in its visual representations and in the practitioners in the field. A first step, perhaps, would be to acknowledge that these issues are at stake instead of just dismissing them as useless concerns. Speculative Design can only earn its “Critical” name once it leaves its own comfort zone and start looking beyond privilege, for real.

After all, as brilliantly described by Ahmed in the thread:
The political, economic, social and cultural implications of technologies are never local but always global and systemic — they ripple out and affect people you may never know or see in your lifetime. It’s great to believe in the promise of technological progress when you belong to a class and a society that will directly get to reap its benefits in the end.
via:anne  2014  luizaprado  pedrooliveira  criticaldesign  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  designfiction  priviilege  designimperialism  criticism  design  art  johnthackara  burtonnitta  class  gender  race  speculation  ahmedansari  jamesauger  michaelburton  michikonitta  humanitariandesign 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Partido Alto is the Portfolio of Pedro Oliveira – Performance for One
"“Performance for One” is a piece that falls in between the fields of performance art and live concert. It allows for different layers of interpretation: one being the musical piece itself, played by the performer – exploring grainy textures instead of defined melodies, drones and slowly-evolving patterns towards a bliss-like experience, as well as playing with the aesthetics of so-called “extreme music” – and the other being the situation which the performance yields – the space between performer and listener is constantly challenged from the moment the performance becomes exclusive and intimate.

Regardless of all different definitions of what a “Performance” is, it is accepted and commonly agreed that its core elements might be: a Performer, a Medium and an Audience. While the Performer – in several cases – tries to achieve a certain level of intimacy with their audience, such intimacy is somehow diluted among all the spectators, for there are multiple messages being transmitted to everyone, but at the same time to none of them directly.

The performance setting is created to allow only one listener at a time; this means that only the performer and this particular person are able to listen to the piece, created on the fly by the performer. One can say that each piece is the result of the Performer’s perception towards this one listener and their response to what is being played."
audiencesofone  2012  performance  sound  music  audience  pedrooliveira 
february 2014 by robertogreco

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