DESIS Philosophy Talk #4.1 Connecting Diversities – Living together in a fluid world. What design can do.

University of the Arts, London (UK) – April 5, 2016 – 14:30-17:30


The world we are used to seeing as solid is eroding and everything seems to be shifting very fast. In Europe, migrants are the most tragic, visible and tangible dimension of a larger, on-going change: in highly-connected, modern societies, family, neighborhood, and community are progressively disappearing, replaced by loose networks of highly-mobile individuals, all of whom are “displaced” in some way.

Given that, we must move away from the traditional model of solid and often homogenous social institutions and toward open and dynamic — and therefore fluid and changeable — forms and structures. The question then becomes: how can people who consider each other strangers live well together? How do we achieve connection within diversity? The answer is collaboration.

Even in contemporary society, with all its contradictions and complexity, collaboration is possible. Already we see collaborative social innovation in action between very different people — whether it’s organizing soccer games, playing music together or starting up enterprises, taking care for each other, or collaborating in solving everyday life problems. Diverse people are able to achieve value and harmony as one. The task of design must be to create ecosystems where these forms of collaboration can grow and thrive, generating models that go well beyond the directly involved people to improve social cohesion as a whole.


The workshop is shaped as a conversation between the presenter and the audience. The presenter proposes a theme and his personal point of view. In this case, the theme is the one of individual and social resilience in a fluid world and the point of view is the one of a European designer involved in the dramatic social and political events that are taking place in Europe in this time.

This presentation intends to challenge the audience and verify if and how the proposed theme and point of view are recognized in the Hong Kong context. And, moving form here, recognize similarities and difference.

The workshop is part of a DESIS Network program named of Philosophy Talks: a format conceived to trigger and support in-depth discussion on design-related cultural issues. In practical terms, it consists in raising a question and discuss it with groups of experts, design researchers and reflexive practitioners in several different places (i.e. in several different social and cultural contexts).


2:30-3:30 Ezio Manzini: Intro and theme presentation

3:30-4:15 Discussion in groups

4:15-5:00 Groups discussion presentation

5:00-5:30 Final discussion and wrap up


DESIS Philosophy Talk #2.4: Storytelling & Social innovation

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Pearl Diver, Designer as Storyteller

Cumulus 2015, Milan – h. 14:30- 17:00

IED, via Sciesa 4, Milano

“Like a pearl diver who descends to the bottom of the sea, not to excavate the bottom and bring it to light but to pry loose the rich and the strange, the pearls and the coral in the depths of the past–but not in order to resuscitate it the way it was and to contribute to the renewal of the extinct ages…as though they waited only for the pearl diver who one day will come down to them and bring them up into the world of the living–as ‘thought fragments,’ as something ‘rich and strange.’”

Nowadays we are encountering many different ways in which designers are telling stories of social innovation. This phenomena encouraged us over the last two years to start a reflection on the philosophical value of storytelling and explore how this can be helpful in feeding our practice as designers. We have done this through conversations with designers, philosophers, as well as practitioners and theorists from many different fields within the DESIS Philosophy Talk series about Storytelling and Design for Social Innovation.

DESIS Philosophy Talks Storytelling and Design for Social Innovation invites you for a special edition of our discussion where our new book, “The Pearl Diver: The Designer as Storyteller” will be presented for the first time to the public!  A number of contributors *  will present their work from the book which was edited by Elisa Bertolotti, Heather Daam, Francesca Piredda and Virginia Tassinari


Francesca Antonacci, Valentina Anzoise, Tricia Austin, Nik Baerten, Pablo Calderon Salazar, Joana Casaca Lemos, Luigi Ferrara, Alister Fuad-Luke, Marisa Galbiati, Saba Golchehr, David Hamers, Michael Kaethler, Mahmoud Keshavarz, Ezio Manzini, Ilaria Mariani, Walter Mattana, Andrea Mendoza, David Parkinson, Davide Pinardi, Daniel Anthony Rossi, Bettina Schwalm, Roberta Tassi, Mika ‘Lumi’ Tuomola, Francesca Valsecchi, Susan Yelavich

Please register here.

DESIS Philosophy Talk #3.2: Cultures of Resilience


ENSAD, Paris, 8 April, 2015
“The art of living, together. Emerging aesthetics for sustainable and resilient ways of living “

The first part of this title (the art of living) refers to the fact that “living” is not only solving daily problems, but also an art: the art of creating meanings and producing and experiencing qualities. This sentence coudl be obious if it would not have been happened that, in the whole discussion on social innovation, the focus has largely been on its capability to solve difficult, sometime intractable, problems (from the elderly population, to transportation, from social cohesion to job creation). Unfortunately, it happens that this correct attention to concrete practical solutions tends to become a limit, if the cultural dimension of these solutions is not recognized and discussed. Or, even worst, it can become a negative ideology leading us to think that all the problems our societies are facing now can be reduced to individual problems and these problems can find individual practical solutions (an  ideology that could be called solution-ism). To escape these risks a cultural proposal should be developed, observing that social innovation is offering us not only practical solutions but also new systems of meaning and disruptive ideas on the quality of life. And discussing how to transform them in the building blocks for a new narrative on how a good life should be like.
It comes that the use of expression “art of living” aims at to bridging the deep philosophic meanings related to the way we live, with the everyday-life sense of something that everybody can learn and practice (but that everybody can also lost as, unfortunately, for a growing number of people, it is happening today).

The second part of the title (together) refers to the fact that, today, in a globalised densely populated planet, there is a high, dramatic risk: the one of reduce the human search for “community and place” to the creation of antagonistic and invented communities and places (i.e. communities and place opposed to other communities and places). It comes that the art of living today is also, and mandatory, the art of living together: the art of community building and place making in the framework of a cosmopolitan localism .

DESIS Philosophy Talk #3.1: Cultures of Resilience

14.09.18 Banner Phil talk Cultures of Resilience18th September 2014, Cape Town.
The event is hosted by CPUT in collaboration with DESIS Network

Resilience  (i.e. system’s capacity to cope with stress and failures without collapsing and learning from the experience) is today a widely used and discussed term. Until now, this has been done considering mainly its technical, economic, functional dimensions. This kind of discussions is important, but is not enough. If resilience must be a characterizing feature of every potential future society, its cultural dimension must be considered too: which cultures are coherent with a resilient society? And, in turn, which cultures can promote a resilient and sustainable society?  In particular: how do the meanings of time and future change? And what about the one of development?

Considering the last question, we can observe that the notion of resilience clashes against the one of development, intended as a linear progress towards an “optimal model”. In fact, in the perspective of resilience we cannot indicate optimal models towards which to move. Therefore a new set of questions arises: does the same idea of development disappear? Or, vice versa, should it be radically redefined? Could this development be indicated by the improvement of natural and social ecosystems richness (i.e. their diversity, redundancy, capability to learn from experience)?

These topics will be discussed in the Philosophy Talk: “Cultures of resilience” that will be held in Cape Town, the 18 September 2014, jointly promoted by CPTU and DESIS.

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DESIS Philosophy Talk #2.3: Storytelling & Social innovation

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May 12th, 10:00-13:00 – Italy
“Designers telling stories & making meaning”

Politecnico di Milano, Design Academy Eindhoven and MAD Faculty/LUCA are organising the next DESIS Philosophy Talk which will take place on May 12th at the Politecnico di Milano. In these past two editions of Storytelling and Design for Social Innovation – in Dublin in November 2013, and in Eindhoven in February 2014 – we have discussed the topic of storytelling and what we can learn from taking a philosophical perspective. In this third session we will focus on the role of storytelling in the practice of design for social innovation as enabling the act of opening up underexplored ranges of meanings in contemporary society.

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DESIS Philosophy Talk #2.2: Storytelling & Social innovation

DESIS Philosophy Talk

March 12, 2014, Design Academy Eindhoven – The Netherlands
“Designers telling stories”

DESIS Network, Design Academy Eindhoven (Strategic Creativity Lab) – Heather Daam & Maartje van Gestel, Politecnico di Milano, Design Dep. (Imagis – POLIMI DESIS Lab) – Elisa Bertolotti & Francesca Piredda and MAD Faculty (Social Spaces CUO – DESIS Lab) – Virginia Tassinari

Can we consider the act of telling stories of social innovation a political action, as it opens up the idea of public realm as a place where decision making take place? Is storytelling in design for social innovation a poetic action, where the two dimensions of telling and making, as in the Greek idea of poiesis, are finally reconciled? Can we look at telling stories of emerging sustainable behaviours worldwide as a way to manifest what is at the margin of the mainstream of society and help its potentialities to be fully expressed? How can we as designers tell the stories of the margins respecting their complexity without oversimplifying them? During this second session on storytelling following the one held in Dublin past November during the Cumulus conference, we will reflect together on this topic and try to formulate some design guidelines for our design practices.

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DESIS Philosophy Talk #2.1: Storytelling & Social innovation

Emerging practices of design for social innovation are showing the relevance to make more extensive use of videos and narratives. Storytelling as such is becoming increasingly important for a variety of reasons. But what does storytelling mean? How can we make best use of it within the context of design for social innovation? Can storytelling be seen as that which facilitates the possibility for a public space to be opened up, where the commons can be re-destributed and where both dialogue and action can be shared and eventually lead to the construction of a higher quality public domain? Can it lead to the establishment of the pre-conditions for participation, condivision and dialogue to take place and lead to the co-design of a more participative society? How can this eventually happen? How can we exclude a manipulative character in the way we make use of storytelling? 

A first session in which we will start to discuss this topic will take place on the 9th of November 2013 and will be hosted by the Cumulus conference “More for less – design in an age of austerity”, organised by NCAD, in Dublin (Ireland). This starting session entitled “Designers from story-listeners to storytellers” results from the collaboration of Ezio Manzini (DESIS International), Virginia Tassinari (MAD Faculty (Social Spaces CUO – DESIS Lab)) and Francesca Piredda, Elisa Bortolotti, Walter Mattana (Design Dep. (Imagis – POLIMI DESIS Lab)) and Andrea Mendoza (DESIS Colombia)

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DESIS Philosophy Talk #1.4: “Disruptive qualities” (continued)

The fourth DESIS Philosophy talk in the “Emerging qualities” series is a joint initiative of Linnaeus University’s School of Design (Sweden) and Social Spaces | CUO DESIS Lab (Belgium) which takes place on June 6th 2013, from 09:00 am – 12:00 am, within the context of the Cumulus Conference “Global Thinking – Local action – future life”
, Kalmar Konstmuseum, Kalmar (Sweden).

The DESIS Philosophy Talk #1.4: “Disruptive qualities” is the fourth talk in a series which took us from  Parsons, in New York, and Tongji University, in Shanghai, to the Politecnico di Milano, discussing sustainable qualities emerging worldwide in cases of social innovation. During the DESIS Philosophy Talk #1.4: “Disruptive qualities” we will zoom in further on the disruptive character which the aforementioned qualities share. Ezio Manzini, Victor Margolin and Virginia Tassinari will guide the discussion.

The session will take place within the context of a two-day workshop “Design and philosophy. Disruptive qualities. Emerging ideas of times, places, work and relationship. A design challenge”, led  by Ezio Manzini and Virginia Tassinari. It will be a moment of reconnection of the discussion of the DESIS Philosophy Talk with design practice. During the workshop there will be a specific focus on concrete cases of social innovation as seen through the lenses of the disruptive qualities, allowing participants to experience how the philosophical reflection can inspire and reinforce the practice of design for social innovation.

DESIS Philosophy Talk #1.3: “Disruptive qualities”

The third DESIS Philosophy Talk in the “Emerging qualities” series, is a joint initiative of POLIMI DESIS Lab and Social Spaces | CUO DESIS Lab and will take place on Monday, May 13, 2013, 10 am at Politecnico di Milano, Campus Bovisa, via Durando 10, Building 8, room CT62 (second floor).

The talk will build upon the discourse started at Parsons, in New York, and Tongji University, in Shanghai, about the topic of sustainable qualities emerging worldwide in cases of social innovation. In Milan, we will particularly focus on the red thread that seems to connect them, namely the disruptive character of sustainable qualities. Ezio Manzini and Virginia Tassinari will guide the discussion to which the discussants (Victor Margolin and Richard Buchanan) and invited respondents will participate.

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DESIS Philosophy Talk #1.2: “Emerging Aesthetics” (continued)

The second Philosophy Talk “Emerging aesthetics” took place on November 3rd, 2012 at Tongji University in Shanghai as part of the Radical Design Week. It was the second talk within the “Emerging qualities” series, after the one at Parsons New School Of Design in New York.

During the Shanghai session, the perspective was shifted to address the emerging sustainable qualities from a Eastern perspective and stimulate a dialogue with the Western philosophical tradition. Ezio Manzini and Virginia Tassinari led the discussion. Amongst the discussants were Ken Friedman, Richard Hsu, Fang Zhong, and Yongqi Lou.