DESIS Philosophy Talk #7.7 The Politics of Nature – More-than-human futures: new epistemological frameworks for designing in times of crisis

June 15 2022 (16:00-18:30 CEST)

Politecnico di Milano, Campus Durando. Building B1 – Room Castiglioni, 3rd floor

Via Durando 10, 20158 – Milano (IT)

You can attend the event by signing up for a Free Ticket via Eventbrite.

The event will also be streamed live.

Facing the Anthropocene for designing today means not only to recognise where design works as a de-futuring dispositive, but also where designing can prototype different ways of living (well) together and help to think and act otherwise, learning to care for one another. For design to step beyond anthropocentrism and become a (reflective) practice of care – working in a way that makes the same possibility of a future possible – we designers need to be aware of the epistemological paradigm we engage with, and look for/contribute to form a conceptual framework that deep engages with care, and step back from the anthropocentric, dichotomic, Western-centric, patriarchal one-world image from which design as deterring derives. 

To prototype different ways of living (well) together, we first need to envision alternatives, possibilities of multispecies coexistence, where there is a careful inter-action between all actors (humans but also more-than-human ones). Designing’s ability to open up alternatives and make them viable is pivotal for designing in a non-anthropocentric way. It is currently becoming more and more clear that to show alternatives, crafting visions of futures where multi-species coexistence is made tangible, has a key role for designing today. What we are also becoming more and more aware of is its political character. This is particularly the case for those design experimentations which deal in a conscious way with designing’s political agency – such as for instance those belonging to the traditions of design for social innovation and participatory design, aiming at including citizens to collaboratively contribute to the construction of a common world. Crafting futures can there have a pivotal role in opening up the social imagination and go beyond the idea of the future as being on the one side a mere continuation of (the mistakes of) the past, on the other side a singular, univocal, objective idea of “one” future. In a world where many world projects fit, we need an idea of future that is open, Pluriversal and patchy enough to fit many visions of futures. This exercise of stretching the social imagery is necessary to enable active citizens caring for one another and for their own environment, so continue to the construction of a word common to many. This makes of futures a key player for designing politically today, in a way that not only enables the co-creation of a common word, but also of a common world common to many world-making projects (both human as well as more-than-human ones). Considering this (cosmo)political agency is probably one of designing’s more consistent challenges facing the Anthropocene. To design futures from a non-anthropocentric perspective can therefore be pivotal in many and different kinds of design experimentations aiming to work politically, and yet willing also to consider politics beyond the solely human realm. We are all entangled. Futures can enable us to acknowledge this entanglement and support us to act (politically) from this awareness. 

And yet, what does it concretely mean to designing futures from a non-anthropocentric perspective? If the anthropocentric, Western-centric, dichotomic epistemological framework from which design as de-futuring has been originated ought to be critiqued, which other epistemological frameworks are needed to imagine designing otherwise? Which philosophical concepts can help us to step and design beyond anthropocentrism? 

Adam Nocek will start the conversation by questioning design as de-futuring, thus also its patriarchal, Western-centric, anthropocentric epistemological framework and its politics and investigating possibilities for designing within other epistemological frameworks and the (cosmo)politics they involve. During this DESIS Philosophy Talk, designers working with futures and consistently dealing with the (cosmo)politics of their work, will address the (cosmo) political agency of designing futures, and investigate both their epistemological frameworks as well as their transformative, regenerative potential for our present world. Anab Jain, Delfina Fantini von Ditmar, Thomas Pausz and Rachel Armstrong will explore how in their work they question the current epistemological design framework and look for alternative ones, and the politics they entail. 

Join our conversation offline or online! 


16:00 – 16:10 Welcome and introduction
16:10 – 16:40 Adam Nocek (in presence)
16:40 – 16:45 Philosophical questions 
16:45 – 16:00 Delfina Fantini von Ditmar (streaming)
17:00 – 17:15 Rachel Armstrong (streaming) 
17:15 – 17:30 Thomas Pausz (streaming)
17:30 – 17:45 Anab Jain (streaming)
17:45 – 18:30 Open discussion
Sum up and closing words

This DESIS Philosophy Talk takes place as part of the Politecnico di Milano’s 2022 Design PhD Summer School (see also here).