In the early 1970s in his landmark book, Design for the Real World, Victor Papanek suggested that designers should contribute ten percent of their creativity towards the overall good of society. More recently John Thackara suggested a re-orientation from ‘top-down design to seeding edge effects’ (p213, In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World, 2005).
Social networking and technological developments on the internet are facilitating mass collaboration, crowd sourcing and other phenomena which engage our collective creativity (see for example, Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams, 2006; We Think by Charles Leadbeater, 2008). Can design tune with these trends and find new ways to maximise its contribution to sustainability transition?
We urgently need to nurture new visions to revitalise society and regenerate nature. I believe that co-design can encourage active participation by many to deal with today’s inter-connected problems, while informing decisions around what we design and why. I also believe professional designers and design citizens have many creative ideas to gift to society. Let’s call these gifts, ‘Design Seeds’.
A Design Seeds organisation?
I have set up a holding page for Design Seeds with a view to creating a steering group and, over time, a not-for-profit organisation to develop the concept. I see Design Seeds as a platform and network for design activists and citizen designers who wish to reinvigorate and build new capacity in our societies. If you are interested in getting involved, email email@example.com
my Design Seeds
…are offered for the benefit of the commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence
Design process is integral to debate that gives a firm foundation to new societal strategies for designing ‘now’. Co-designing ‘now’ is about ‘co-futuring’, to give positive directionality to the future and to proactively contribute to what happens next. Co-futuring requires what Alvin Toffler, in his 1970 polemical book Future Shock, called ‘social future assemblies’, a new form of ‘anticipatory democracy’. I suggest in my forthcoming book Design Activism (Chapter 7), that democratic participatory design assemblies could have the designation ‘MootSpace’, where every citizen designer knows their voice will be heard. The MootSpace has a lineage dating back to 9th century Anglo-Saxon Britain when a system of administration called ‘hundreds’ called people together to outdoor spaces, such as mounds, hills, forest glades, and later moot halls, to debate. Such spaces remain part of the democratic tradition of living cultures, such as the marae of the Maori.
I propose the MootSpace as a means to debate contemporary issues using the co-design approach using those who are experienced in design facilitation work. The MootSpace allows us to comprehend how our collective ‘experiencing’ can lead to a deeper understanding of our inter-connected problems, to encouraging the development of new concepts and to creatively designing solutions together. This is a space where the local:regional:global debate can be made sense of and be evolved by local people.
The MootSpace is conceived as a series of optional elements, from an ephemeral chalked circle in an existing urban landscape to a sophisticated permanent building built by the local citizens, or an existing building temporarily or permanently re-configured for the purpose. A new MootSpace can be configured with these optional elements:
|Circle marked on surface|
|A light circle, solar powered|
|A circular digital screen embedded in the surface, solar powered, linked to a web site|
|A seating module surrounding the digital screen|
|A vertical ‘wall’ structure|
|A closed roof or closure structure with ‘skyspace’ hole|
An example of the full configuration is given in Fig 1a and 1b. The specific choice of materials may reflect the bio-region, the specific local culture, availability of technical know-how and other local factors, but the key idea is that the MootSpace is co-designed and co-constructed by the locals.
MootSpace Fig 1a
MootSpace Fig 1b
Even within one element the design permutations are legion. Figs 2a, 2b, 2c and 2d show a MootSpace laid out in a green open space (park, playing field, farmer’s field, village green). A series of concentric circles are based on the Fibonacci series, but modified by assuming a ‘person width’ of 1.22m for the smallest circle and 0.75m for the largest circle. These circles (from diameter 5.05metres, to 7.95m, 12.4m, 18.8m, 26.9m and 34.4m) can accommodate gatherings of approximately 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 and 144 people. The circles could be permanent (brick, stone, gravel) or ephemeral (short cut grass mown into longer grass). Lightweight translucent screens could be anchored to the circles and clip to each other to form enclosures or wind breaks, according to the number of people and weather conditions.
MootSpace Fig 2a
MootSpace Fig 2b
MootSpace Fig 2c
MootSpace Fig 2d
Encouraging discussion in smaller groups could be achieved by contracting the main ‘moot circles’ into smaller circular groups, each with a self-appointed facilitator(s), as in Fig 2e. A group of facilitators can choreograph and co-ordinate this process.
MootSpace Fig 2e
I believe the concept of the MootSpace has the potential to generate new forms of democratic debate and to re-localise the conversation about what’s happening, what are the key issues, what can we/do we want to create/design/make in our locality. Perhaps the MootSpace is synergistic with emerging movements such as the Transition Towns Network, the diverse ‘slow movement’ and as a platform for generating eco-socio innovation.
Please feel free to develop the concept MootSpace by Alastair Fuad-Luke, March 2009 …
MootSpace by Alastair Fuad-Luke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License