Studying Change: Design as advocacy/activism/agency with Liam Fennessy and Soumitri Varadarajan was a choice I made when reading the subject guide before balloting. As my last ever studies class that I will undertake, I wanted to make sure that I chose a subject that would interest me, push the boundaries of my design thinking and set me on the right track to head into third year Industrial Design at RMIT. I will admit, after reading the subject brief, I wasn’t 100% sure what I was signing myself up for, but I had been taught by Liam in the past, and I know that his teaching style and philosophy sits well with me.
After our first class with Soumitri, I doubted weather I had made the right choice, straight after class on 25th July, tweeting “feeling annoyed/irritated/insulted #changeaaa”. But upon reflection, I realized that this is how Soumitri wanted us to feel. He had pushed our buttons to spark a sense of irritation, to drive an emotional reaction that would illicit a need for change.
For the next four weeks, tweeting as much as possible and updating our WordPress blogs with our thoughts and insights on current issues was a daily exercise. At first I found these tasks to be a chore, it wasn’t easy learning how to use them, but when it becomes such a frequent occurrence, you pick it up pretty fast. I found that scrolling through HootSuite, Tweet Deck, looking up what was trending and following tweeters like “Humanitarian News”, “Change.org” and “Climate Reality” vastly expanded my knowledge and awareness of what was going on in the world. This live feed form of research made me feel in touch with what was going on. It puts things in your own life in perspective when you see what others are dealing with.
Our first task of committing to giving up something didn’t last long for me. I chose to totally wipe out coffee from my daily routine. Although I was not previously a huge coffee drinker, I did struggle with this task. It wasn’t purely because I was struggling to keep my eyes open in the morning, but I also found that on social occasions like going to someone’s house for a catch up or meeting in a café, I didn’t want to seem rude by refusing their offer of a coffee. I guess, if I had of stayed firm in my attempts, I could have overcome this situation, but this time it was caffeine: 1, Georgie: 0.
Focusing on the topic of ‘Energy Saving in the Home’ for our group assignment and the Field Manual for Change was an engaging topic because it sits very close to home for me. Being a strong believer in the need for change in order to lessen our emissions and input towards climate change, I felt a strong drive to clearly get this issue out there. After having lived through years of drought and having to adapt to change in order to conserve water in particular, I had first hand experience of small and low cost things that people can implement into their own homes in order to reduce their energy usage.
Working in groups was an interesting experience. We started off very strongly, meeting up for regular discussions of ideas, which moved into breaking up tasks among group members and communicating via the Internet using media like Facebook, Twitter and Google Drive. In general our group was excellent at giving each other feedback and correcting each other’s work. Unfortunately towards the end of the assignment, someone took it upon herself to compile all of our work into the posters, and instead of placing our work into the poster layout; she also saw her role as the Editor. With the best intentions of simply wanting to present quality work, this overshadowed a lot of input that other group members had, and when undertaking group work, it is not a one-way street. You have to learn to compromise. Overall I feel our assignment turned out very well, and most importantly we were able to visually and textually communicate the need for change in terms of energy saving in the home.
Class discussions were one of my favourite facets to this course. Bringing up notions of switching between Marco and Micro vision thinking when designing, reading about the idea of Defuturing proposed by academic provocateur in sustainability, Tony Fry, and discussing the history and importance of Industrial Design, all changed the way I view my role as a designer.
Overall I think that this course, through the guidance of Liam and Soumitri has resulted in my better understanding of the role of a designer, the importance of switching between different ways of thinking about design and finally understanding the three concepts of being a change maker, advocacy, activism and agency.