Lecture – 4.9.2018

Visions

Dan Lockton

Transition Design proposes that more radically new ideas and compelling visions of sustainable futures are needed. These long term visions are conceived through a circular, iterative, error-friendly process that can inform small, discrete design solutions in the present. Designers are uniquely suited to develop compelling visions of sustainable futures because of their experience in areas such as scenario development, future-casting and speculative design. Transition ‘visioning’ helps transcend the limitations (and stakeholder differences) of the present and creates a space in which we can speculate and wonder about how things could be. These future-based visions can serve as measures against which to guide, inspire and evaluate design solutions in the present. In order for designers to contribute to the development of compelling visions and narratives for a sustainable future, they need to acquire knowledge and skills that are emerging out of several new initiatives and organizations.

In this way, Design’s role is less about solving ‘fixed’ and static problems, and more about understanding complexity in order to speculate—in an informed way—about how things could be different via co-created visions: offering at once, both propositions and statements, ‘This?’ and ‘This!’ as Dilnot (2015) puts it. Imagined futures can motivate, inspire, exemplify, horrify and provoke action; this would be a plural field, a flowering of alternatives which opens up discussion of, and provides examples—and potentially even ‘patterns’ for—different futures, with different voices, humble in its certainty, but confident in its challenge to existing paradigms. Design which adopts a singular, linear vision of ‘the future’, and future human behavior, does not deal adequately with the complexities of humanity, culture and society, let alone our place within the ecological systems of the planet.

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

Discussion Prompts

  • Why are designers well suited to envisioning sustainable futures?
  • What are the potential problems with future visioning?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of envisioning sustainable futures?
  • Can compelling visions of the future change the way we frame projects/solutions in the present?
  • Are societal transitions possible without long-term visions?
  • How can we bring rigor to the task of envisioning sustainable futures?
  • What new skill sets and knowledge are required for this type of designing?

Read Prior to Class

Supplemental Readings

Lecture – 4.11.2018

Foresight & Futures

Stuart Candy

This class will provide an overview of the field of foresight/futures, and begin to look at the ways in which it can inform tangible action in the present, particularly with respect to Transition Design.

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

Discussion Prompts

  • What images of the future can you identify in the world around you?
  • In the early 1930s Wells describes some foreseeable challenges to society that he thinks are not sufficiently being addressed. What are these? What are some of the ones we could name today, and how might those be addressed?
  • What kind of mechanisms do we currently have for responsibility to future generations?
  • Use Boulding’s concept of the 200-year present to explore backward and forward. What do you think you would need to do this properly?
  • Discussion prompt based upon lecture/readings?
  • Discussion prompt based upon lecture/readings?

Read Prior to Class

Lecture – 4.16.2018

Foresight Approaches

Stuart Candy

This class will outline the logic and a typical sequencing of foresight methods as used by professionals, as well as provide an opportunity for some hands-on practice with one of these processes selected to help with the upcoming assignment.

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

Discussion Prompts

  • What aspects of this way of thinking seem to come most naturally to you? Are there any that you find especially challenging or counterintuitive?
  • By what means do you think shared foresight and transition-enabling competencies might be distributed throughout society?
  • What benefits, on one hand, or limitations and hazards, on the other, do you discern in the notion of backcasting/three horizons (working backward from an idea)?

Read Prior to Class

  • Gidley, 2017, The Future: A Very Brief Introduction [excerpt]
  • Inayatullah, 2008, “Six pillars: Futures thinking for transforming”
  • Lockton & Candy, 2018 (forthcoming), “A vocabulary of visions in designing for transitions”
Lecture & Discussion – 4.18.2018

Lifestyles & Everyday Life & Assignment #4

Everyday life is the realm within which the consequences of wicked problems are experienced, and it is one of the primary contexts within which they need to be addressed. In the modern era, everyday life has been shaped by globalised economic forces and centralised institutions of various kinds. Transition Design proposes to counter this societal paradigm by the re-conception of whole lifestyles that are rooted in local ecosystems, cultures and histories. It emphasises the need to address quality of life issues within the context of the everyday. This means redesigning most of the systems (food, energy, healthcare, education, infrastructure) and related everyday practices through which we satisfy our needs, and empowering decentralised, networked and place-based communities to take control of this process at all levels of scale — households, neighbourhoods, cities and regions.

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

Discussion Prompts

  • What are the advantages of thinking about everyday life as being organized at different levels of scale?
  • Can the concept of the levels of everyday life serve as a guide in framing and conceiving transition solutions?
  • How does the character of everyday life change at each level of scale?
  • What are the wicked problems associated with the decline of the Domains of Everyday Life?
  • What are the ways in which design/designers can help restore the Domains of Everyday Life?
  • How are the Domains of Everyday Life related to the theories of changed discussed in previous classes?
  • In what ways might needs (at various levels of scale) be satisfied more effectively?

Read Prior to Class

Supplemental Readings

  • Ward, Colin. 1982. Spontaneous Order. From Anarchy in Action. London: Freedom Press. pp 31–39*

Assignment #4: Developing Future Visions

Assignment 4: Developing Future Visions will be introduced in the last 20 minutes of class. Teams will be provided with a template within which to develop a long-term future, lifestyle-based narrative/scenario in which their wicked problem has been resolved. Factors and solutions that historically contributed to its resolution will be described through the lens of everyday life in a sustainable future. Visions should touch on the ways in which cultural norms and beliefs may have shifted, what new technological innovations may exist and how everyday behaviors and practices have all contributed to the resolution of the wicked problem the team has been focused on during the semester. Refer to the Assignment #4 page on this website for more details.

Discussion – 4.23.2018

Cosmopolitan Localism

Globalization lies at the root of many wicked problems. ‘Localism’ has been an attempt to address these problems, however, they are often too complex and interconnected to be resolved at a local level. In order to develop place-based, high-quality lifestyles for the long-term future, new forms of everyday life and lifestyles must be envisioned. These are visions of lifestyles that are self-organized and networked at multiple levels of scale, from households through neighborhoods, cities, regions and the planet: Cosmopolitan Localism — a regionally and globally networked social, political, economic and technological system in which most needs can be satisfied locally, while some remain reliant on global networks. This symbiotic connection spanning the levels from the local to the planet as a whole, would represent a new kind of social, cultural, political and economic settlement that is consistent with an ecological or holistic worldview.

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

Discussion Prompts

  • What is the difference between self-reliance and self-sufficiency and which is preferable in a cosmopolitan local society?
  • What are the contrasts between cosmopolitan localism and globalization?
  • How can we use the Domains of Everyday Life to define ‘local’ in a cosmopolitan localist community? In what ways would cosmopolitan localist communities be more collaborative and why?
  • What forms of government and economics are consistent with cosmopolitan localism and what are the different types of networks on which these will depend?
  • What are the advantages of thinking about everyday life as being organized at different levels of scale?
  • In what ways do new technologies have an important role to play in developing cosmopolitan localism?

Read Prior to Class

  • Sachs, Wolfgang. 1999. Cosmopolitan Localism. In Planet Dialectics: Exploration in Environment and Development. London: Zed Books Ltd. pp. 105–107*

Supplemental Readings

  • Shirky, Clay. 2008. Small World Networks. From Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin pp 214–221*