Lecture – 2.8.2017

Theories of Change

Gideon Kossoff

Transition Design argues that the social, economic, political and technological systems upon which society depends must transition toward more more sustainable futures. The task of the transition designer is to seed and catalyze such change. Transition Design is centrally concerned with Theories of Change — how and why societal systems change or remain inert, and how such change manifests and can be catalyzed and directed towards desirable and sustainable futures. Theories of Change is a key area within the transition design framework for three important reasons 1) A theory of change is always present within a planned/designed course of action, whether it is explicitly acknowledged or not;  2) Transition to sustainable futures will require sweeping change at every level of our society;  3) Conventional, outmoded and seemingly intuitive ideas about change lie at the root of many wicked problems. Readings for this class include several theories of change from fields and disciplines outside design.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • Think of a solution you have designed and try to identify what your implicit theory of change was.
  • What assumptions about change was your design based upon?
  • In what ways would explicitly identifying a theory of change be useful?
  • How can theories of change or ideas about how change manifests from other fields and disciplines be useful in designing for transition?
  • Have you ever explicitly identified a theory of change as part of your design process?
  • How does a theory of change relate to design research?
  • Can you imagine using theories of change explicitly as part of your design process?

Read Prior to Class

  • Wheatley, Margaret, and Myron Kellner-Rogers. 1996. A Simpler Way. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. pp 32–34, 70–71, 97–99*
  • Goerner, S.J. 1999. After the Clockwork Universe. In After the Clockwork Universe: The Emerging Science and Culture of Integral Society, Edinburgh: Floris. pp. 13–25*

Supplemental Readings

Discussion Session – 2.13.2017

Alternative Economics

Bori Lee, Olivia Shoucair, Lisa Li and Monica Looze

One of the root causes of wicked problems is the dominant economic paradigm that is predicated upon the maximization of profit and unbridled growth on a finite planet. The transition to more sustainable futures will require the development of new kinds of equitable and integrated economic systems in which most of people’s needs can be satisfied locally, although some will rely on global networks. In this class, several alternative economic approaches are discussed that place concern for people and planet on an equal footing with profit. Transition Designers must be aware of the ways in which the dominant for-profit paradigm impedes the ability of societies to transition to more sustainable, place-based lifestyles and they leverage an understanding of alternative economic models to conceive more sustainable solutions.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • In what ways is design connected to the unsustainable, dominant economic paradigm?
  • Why is an alternative form of economics called ‘circular’? To what does it refer?
  • What are the main differences between the dominant, ‘for profit’ paradigm and the alternative models discussed in the readings?
  • Speculate on how everyday life would be different in a predominantly ‘sharing’ economy.
  • How does the concept of ‘the commons’ relate to a discussion of alternative economics?
  • How might an increased importance on ‘the commons’ affect design solutions?
  • Is it possible to have a thriving economy based upon cooperation and sharing rather than competition? What are some of the ways in which everyday life would change? How would it change the way designers work?
  • What are the advantages of a local economy? Is it possible to meet most of our needs locally?

Read Prior to Class

  • Korten, David. Seven Points of Intervention. 2010. In Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. San Francisco: Berrett Koehler. pp. 167-185*

Supplemental Readings

Discussion Session – 2.15.2017

Needs & Everyday Life

Denise Nguyen, Ashlesha Dhotey, Chirag Murthy and Jeffrey Chou

Within the context of lifestyles and everyday life, understanding how people go about satisfying their needs is a key strategy for developing sustainable solutions. Everyday life is an important, yet often overlooked context for understanding society and the forces which mold it. Transition Design proposes that everyday life and lifestyles should be the primary context within which to design for sustainable futures and an improved quality of life. Everyday life emerges as people go about the business of satisfying their needs. Manfred Max-Neef’s theory of ‘needs and satisfiers’ proposes that needs are finite and universal, but the ways in which people meet those needs are unique to their era, culture, geographic location, age and mindset. Transition Design argues that everyday life is more likely to be sustainable when communities are self-organizing and therefore in control of the satisfaction of their needs.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • How is  Max-Neef’s theory of ‘needs’ different than more well known theories such as Maslow’s theory? How is the difference significant? What possibilities for design does it open up?
  • What are some examples of needs satisfiers that are inappropriate, misconceived or ‘counterfeit’?
  • How can the distinction between genuine needs and wants/desires be relevant to designers and design process?
  • How might design problems be framed differently if the primary context was everyday life? Discuss how the same problem, framed first using traditional design approaches and secondly using everyday life as the primary context, lead to different solutions?
  • Does framing problems and solutions within the context of everyday life and lifestyles have implications for user-centered design and research?
  • Discuss what is meant by the argument that everyday life is an emergent property of people meeting their needs? Speculate on the relationship between needs satisfaction and everyday life.
  • How are Max-Neef’s concepts of pseudo-satisfiers and counterfeit satisfiers connected to wicked problems?
  • In what ways can design for integrated satisfiers become part of sustainable/transition design process or strategy? Is designing for integrated satisfiers inherently more sustainable?
  • Can the distinction between genuine needs/integrated satisfiers become a way of critiquing design solutions to ensure they are sustainable?

Read Prior to Class

  • Irwin, Terry. 2011. Design for a Sustainable Future, In Hershauer, Basile, and McNall (eds), The Business of Sustainability. Santa Barbara: Praeger. 2: 41–60

Supplemental Readings

Discussion Session – 2.20.2017

Social Practice Theory

Lauren Miller, Manjari Sahu, Nehal Vora and Jesse Wilson

Transition Designers must achieve  a deep understanding of the dynamics of change within complex social systems—how change can be seeded, catalyzed and directed. Social Practice Theory studies how immersive practices, habits and behaviours or ‘ethnographies’ combine with constellations of devices, skills and meanings that comprise our everyday lives. Social Practice Theory attempts to identify opportunities for change in everyday life and can inform design solutions that leverage these opportunities in order to  shift social systems over time into more sustainable trajectories.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • Why are social practices considered to be ‘inertial’?
  • How can designers leverage social practices in developing transition solutions? How does social practice theory relate to, supplement or run counter to user-centered design approaches?
  • Are there temporal differences between Social Practice Theory’s study of practices and user-centered design?
  • Speculate on how a particular set of practices might be an opportunity for a transition design intervention or solution.
  • What is the relationship between social practices and the satisfaction of needs? In what ways might they enhance design research and process

Read Prior to Class

Supplemental Readings

  • Tim Kasser discussing social psychology research and its connection to shifting to sustainable behaviors
Guest Lecture (Dan Lockton) – 2.22.2017

Transition Design for Behavior Change

Dan Lockton

The design of products, services, environments and systems plays an important role in affecting what people do, now and in the future. Many visions of transition to sustainable futures assume large-scale changes in human behavior; first arising in programs around energy efficiency and recycling in the 1970s and 80s and coming into wider public and political awareness since the Rio Earth Summit, sustainability researchers have tried to establish how best to encourage people to live in more sustainable ways. While Social Practice Theory considers everyday activities at the level of constellations of devices–skills–meanings, design can also engage practically at the level of people’s interaction behavior in context.

In recent years, research on behavior—and behavior change—from areas of social and cognitive psychology, health psychology, behavioral economics, decision science, human factors, and other fields has been adopted within design, variously known as design for behavior change, behavioral design, persuasive technology, ‘nudge’ design, or in the case of specific focus on sustainability, design for sustainable behavior. There are a variety of insights from different disciplinary perspectives which can be explored and applied within the context of people’s attitudes, behaviors, motivations, understanding, imaginaries and framing, for example via ‘design pattern’ collections.

From a Transition Design point of view, it is important to understand that each approach taken necessarily embodies particular assumptions about human nature, values, culture, the structure and homogeneity of society, and the distribution of agency and power. Critiques of much behavior-focused work center on its ethics, its over-emphasizing of individualized decision-making (at the expense of social and contextual factors), particular definitions of rationality, under-emphasizing structural constraints, and a narrow determinism often founded in a modernist perspective.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • Thinking about an everyday behavior, how does design affect what you do?
  • Thinking about a time you have changed your behavior, what factors affected you?
  • Are you motivated by knowledge, values, capacity, life-stage or community?What types of behavior/psychology support or inhibit change/transition toward sustainability?
  • Pick a ‘behavior change’ measure or program you are aware of. What assumptions about people are embodied in the approach?
  • What ideas about society and humans are reinforced or challenged by promoting particular models of change?
  • Why might it not be enough to appeal to people’s ‘better nature’ when advocating sustainability/transition measures?

Supplemental Readings

Discussion Session – 2.27.2017

Sociotechnical Regime Theory

Delanie Ricketts, Meric Dagli, Hajira Qazi, Monique Smith, Adrian Galvin, Leah Jiang

Transition Design argues for societal transitions to more sustainable futures. This means that society’s infrastructures, or what is referred to  ‘socio-technical systems’ will need to undergo radical, long-term change.  Socio-technical systems are TANGLES of living and designed/mechanistic systems in which technology plays an ever-increasing role. They are bound up in complex webs of relationship, interactions and physical infrastructure that become ever more dense over time. Socio-Technical Regime theory studies how socio-technical transitions have taken place throughout history (such as the transition from horse-drawn carriage to the automobile) in order to seed and catalzye transitions for the future. Socio-technical researchers have developed a multi-level framework for understanding how change manifests at multiple levels of scale within these complex systems. The Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) can be a useful tool for identifying leverage points and opportunities (at multiple levels of scale) for design solutions aimed at shifting these systems into more sustainable trajectories.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • What is the relevance of sociotechnical regime theory for design and designers?
  • Speculate on how understanding historical socio-technical transitions could serve as the basis for strategic ‘systems interventions’ (design solutions, projects, initiatives).
  • Can you identify shifts and changes occurring at the landscape level that open up opportunities for projects and initiatives at the niche level? Can a seemingly negative/problematic or even catastrophic event at the landscape level open up opportunities at the niche or regime level? Does this work in reverse? Is one level of the MLP better suited than others for design interventions?
  • What experiments at the niche-level are currently in process? Which ones have the potential to positively disrupt the regime? What might the future trajectory look like? How could opportunities at the landscape level be leverage to amplify the transition?
  • How could the MLP complement/supplement traditional problem finding/framing/solving?
  • In what ways are the MLP and Social Practice Theory complementary? How can they supplement traditional design practice and research?

Read Prior to Class

Supplemental Readings

  • eit Climate-KIC website. 2016. Visual Toolbox for System Innovation. Access via a free MOOC. We strongly recommend that all students sign up for this free course. There is a library of tools available for designing for systems-level change and specifically for working with the Multi-Level Perspective tool.

ASSIGNMENT #2: Multi-Level Perspective Mapping

(This is an overview of Assignment #2. Please visit the Assignments section for more details) Working in groups, students will explore the various technologies, practices, services and businesses that define the complex system of which their wicked problem is a part.  While the first assignment asked students to map a complex problem, the Multi-Level Perspective model asks them to understand the problems’s context in order to identify emerging opportunities for new interventions. Students will work in the same groups with the same problem as Assignment 1.

This exercise will require students to look at the familiar with a new lens, isolating complex and interconnected initiatives to identify emergent patterns as well as opportunities for innovation. Students should prepare a digital representation of their Multi-Level Perspective model and be ready to discuss both their conceptual and visual process. Groups will present their diagrams and, like with the wicked problem maps, will begin to identify common efforts, explore shared opportunities as well as call out pressures and vulnerabilities that might serve as leverage points for larger systemic change.

Students should clearly document the final maps and submit them along with analysis. This is where good information design will be crucial in communicating complex ideas such as this as the basis for transdisciplinary problem-solving.

To be completed as homework, Due Discussion Session 3.5 – 3.6.2017

Guest Lecture (Kakee Scott) – 3.1.2017

Mapping Sociotechnical Transitions

Kakee Scott

In this exercised-based session, students will discuss and review the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) tool developed by researchers in science and technology studies to track, map and analyze socio-technical transitions over long periods of time. Students will then apply the MLP to a developed case study and consider its potential as a tool for design strategy in transition design projects: collecting knowledge and insights and developing strategies, propositions, visions and narratives for socio-technical futuring.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Read Prior to Class

Supplemental Readings

Discussion Session – 3.6.2017

Assignment #2 Presentations

Gray Crawford, Ashlesha Dhotey, Rossa Kim and Eunjung Paik

The cohort will break into their same discussion groups for parallel presentation sessions. Groups will present their visual maps in which a technology transition has been mapped against the MLP tool. Presentations will be followed by a discussion. If there is time there will be a brief in-class exercise described below (optional).

Discussion Prompts

  • Speculate on how easy or difficult it was to trace a technology transition on the MLP. Could you imagine using it as a design strategy?
  • Was your team able to think in terms of technology transition? Does it feel like a skill that you might get better at?
  • Does our habitual way of thinking in short horizons of time impede our ability to see transitions in hindsight and follow a trajectory into a probable future?
  • In what ways might working with the MLP enhance or conflict with traditional, more established design approaches?

In-Class Activity

Close class by mapping the various Theories of Change (Alternative Economics, Needs and Everyday Life, Social Practice Theory, and Sociotechnical Regime Theory) onto the double diamond design process.

  • Where might the skills, frames and perspectives learned in this section be most influential to a traditional design process?

The Double Diamond is a widely used visualization of the non-linear design process. Created by the British Design Council, the double diamond describes the divergent and convergent thinking designers employ in framing problems and designing well-considered, human-centered solution.

The first diamond describes the exploratory research phase of the design process, as designers conduct human-centered research to move from a general problem space towards a specific problem. From there, designers diverge once more to explore possible solutions before narrowing down towards a single design.