Convivial Design for the American Breakdown

Peter Jones Wu Wei

Part II.   Human-Scale Tools for Change While many authors recently warned of the consequences of an ideology of unfettered growth, including Ronald Wright, Jared Diamond, George Monbiot, and Thomas Homer-Dixon), philosopher/priest Ivan Illich warned us 40 years ago.  He foresaw a collapse of the post-industrial economy, which did not happen then. Illich proposed that autonomous, creative citizens take responsibility for creating the tools that might regenerate a civilization for real human needs and purposes. Perhaps both, breakdown and a creative civilization, are happening now. As with the Club of Rome (1969) and their Limits to Growth (1972), Ivan Illich was right – but at the wrong time.  Those who remember the 1970’s may recall that alternative publications at the time (I have all the old Co-Evolution Quarterlies) treated the mid-70’s as if the apocalypse was happening then. Perhaps it always seems that way. As Dayton’s (now Austin’s) Troy Campbell sang on 2004’s American Breakdown, The World Keeps on Ending – every generation reinvents their desire the end the problems they inherited before the problems end the generation. Yet this time …

Who will we be when Design grows up?

Peter Jones Wu Wei

The new year often finds blogs and commentators concerned with the memes and themes of the oncoming era hurtling toward us. Participating as I do in the more “abstract” design communities (e.g., experience, anthro, service design, strategic innovation, interaction, information architecture) I observe a lot of unproductive self-definition.  This takes the form of pronouncements about what a certain field is or is becoming, and why we we ought to care. To be charitable, we might view these discussions as a socially-adapted process of guiding disciplinary evolution. To be less charitable, when I compare design’s disciplinary development with the mature fields I work closely with (in my design research), I have to wonder whether we’re up to the job. Take a strategic view of Design (and I don’t mean business or competitively strategic, or strategic as in winning).  Strategic also means the capacity to imagine the broader unfolding of the consequences of interventions and emergence toward a desired horizon of some, but not all, possibilities. Let’s ask, who do we really desire to be when we grow up? Because grow up …

Design Leadership for Problem Systems

Peter Jones Human Values, Wu Wei

The full article is currently on Social Design, so first let me send readers to Joana’s stunning new design site.  Here I’ll recap the central theme of Design Leadership for Problem Systems. The design industry grew rapidly in the 20th century, by satisfying the massive and growing needs of consumer products, industrial systems, and a business ethos of growth, fueled by advertising. (What is design’s future to be now that agreement about that ethos is changing?) I observe a significant change occurring in the language and outlook of people in the design fields, especially apparent in my adopted home city of Toronto. I see a new ethos emerging in this new century, one that stands on the shoulders of many who have long argued for systemic change. Citizen designers and interdisciplinary leaders are guiding clients and peers toward sustainable design and progressively toward a social transformation agenda. And this shift in values (or the predominance of actions consistent with values) co-occurs with the devastating upheaval in economic fortunes among those heavily invested in the previous century’s perspective and commitments to …

Toronto 2.0 – Becoming a wired participatory polity

Peter Jones Wu Wei

Today’s Globe & Mail reports on ChangeCamp. What is ChangeCamp? It is the application of ‘the long tail’ to public policy. It is a long-held and false assumption that ordinary citizens don’t care about public policy. The statement isn’t, of itself, false. Many, many, many people truly don’t care that much. They want to live their lives focusing on other things – pursuing other hobbies or interests. But there are many of us who do care: Public-policy geeks, fans, followers, advocates, etc… We are everywhere, we’ve just been hidden in a long tail that saw the marketplace and capacity for developing and delivering public policy restricted to a few large institutions. We’re in the midst of the kind of change we have been seeking and organizing for years. Society appears ready to recognize the vision of activists, citizens, new media folks, and democracy philosophers. But now in our own terms of engagement. ChangeCamp is about identifying our own “user needs” for government and for creating openings and listening for our participation to matter. What happens here may happen anywhere, but …