Critical Self-Reflection – Change: Design as Advocacy/Activism/Agency

The content I have engaged with during Change: Design as Advocacy/Activism/Agency has been a captivating and significant catalyst towards my deeper understanding of the acts of designing and how those artifacts influence individual and collective experiences.                                              Throughout the semester I have absorbed useful information regarding design as an important part of not just artifacts but society, social norms, systems and cultural context, and its influence on and journey through change.

In this class I gained a deeper understanding on the pressing issues that are born from the current design of our societies and social norms. My knowledge increased in scope by engaging in an exploration of potential changes that could be made for an improvement in the system. With mediators (the things that maintain status quo) and intermediaries (things that may lead to transformation) in mind, discussions ensued on a range of topics including overconsumption of food and material objects, increasing population density in cities, obesity, and the Fordist movement.      This will positively influence my future design journeys through enabling me to better consider how my artifacts, systems and services can act as an intermediary.

In this class I also gained a deeper understanding of artifacts themselves and where they sit in a social, cultural, historical and sustainable context.                                                                                        I found looking at cultural history behind the physical object, and questioning why things are currently the way they are, to be highly valuable. Are the placements of letters on a typewriter set out to make it the easiest way for the user to type? Or is it because the designers wanted the letters that spell “typewriter” to be in one line for advertising purposes? Are cars the size they are now because they’re intrinsically a good size, or because the ditches in the road that were created by horse and carriage dictated this?                                                                                                               This brought me to consider how the cultural history affects us on a day to day basis and whether it’s good to drastically evolve and deviate excessively away from cultural history or bit by bit gradually re-shape to successfully achieve an uptake of change.

It was also very useful to reflect on how ingrained particular products have become in our societies and individual minds, such as the clothes peg, or for a more current example the mobile phone, an artifact that we do not think twice about. It was an interesting thought about the uptake and adoption of artifacts in society, which inspired me to want to create a positively impacting artifact in society that will be taken up by humankind and become as fundamental as a peg, creating mass change.

I learnt that to reach a stage of change, we must realize that artifacts are a component of are part of a system, and one must consider the whole network to effectively reach change as an outcome.         This interconnected web includes mediators (as a tool), subject, rules, community, divisions of labor, and all play a role in the objective/outcome, which can be ‘change’ or an artifact.                          Acquiring this knowledge will be useful in the future for me, because it will enable me to keep in mind how the outcome/artifact would affect and integrate the system and vice versa, and see if it is a viable design in terms of social and cultural assimilation.

From here, we looked into the object further to analyze another system that it is part of: how the artifact (or practice) integrates with agendas (be it political or other) and the approach (ie. Methods) This made me have a deeper understanding of the motives, statement and thought processes that occur during the concept generation and execution of design.

Another valid lesson was that of the life cycle of products and the system of production, use and disposal, and how we can change that framework to become more sustainable.             96% of energy to create a product is lost during the production and is not tangibly evident in the final product.                                                                                                                           The task I undertook this semester of boycotting disposable packaging and products tied in with this nicely, because this too made me consider the hidden impact of products as something to keep in mind during design phases.

The spreading of information is a vital step towards understanding, change, and a world of global citizenship, and was explored through means of infographics, blogging and Twitter. I learnt about the significant impact that a clear and well thought out infographic can generate, a clever blog entry can evoke, and the spread of information that a short sharp Tweet can produce. Previous to the course I had not partaken in any of the above, but I have now acquired knowledge on these three valuable tools to use at my disposal when I wish to spread information in the future.

The different topics that I learnt throughout the semester of Change: Design as Advocacy/Activism/Agency piece together to form a coherent body of new knowledge and theory for me to ponder, draw upon and actively engage in in the real world. As a young designer my awareness on the cultural and social aspects of an artifact and our environment has been improved through undertaking this subject. My better understanding on the complex states of problems has rendered me with a stronger disposition to engage in change-making.

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