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PHD-DESIGN  December 2018

PHD-DESIGN December 2018

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Subject:

Re: Non-anthropocentric design research

From:

"Krippendorff, Klaus" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 04:53:03 +0000

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Well, Eric, Michelle, Ken, terry, and now Jinan, 
I didn't want to chime into the discussion on non-anthropocentric design, mainly because I had hoped it would fizzle away as I think it should in its undifferentiated generalities. 
 
For some time designers have talked of user-centered design and inquired into how individual users handled technology. This was a well-intended shift from a time where big name designers were celebrated, talked of functions they wanted to realize, and consumers were expected to accept as reasonable solutions to problems that manufacturers claimed they solved. 
 
Instead, user-centered designers claimed to listen to those who actually interacted with technologies they envisioned. It culminated in the enormous advances in interface design, the possibilities individuals using complex machines, such as computers without having to become programmers and hardware specialists. They adopted ethnography, focus groups, interviews, and psychological experiments into their research methodological toolboxes. User-centered design emerged in opposition to the modernist efforts to objectify design. Overtly, it was ethically motivated while covertly promoted by industry eager to sell products that are more complex than their byers could understand in everyday terms. In effect, it limited design to serve industrial interest. (Add to that the call for "universal design," a call that implied serving the majority of users while simultaneously homogenizing the population of consumers). 
 
In 2006, the National Science Foundation sponsored a conference on "Design in the Age of Information" http://repository.upenn.edu/asc_papers/96 . While it brought many voices together, my aim was to cause a shift from the narrow focus on user-centered design to take on a larger perspective and conceptualize human-centered design as a perspective that recognized that designers deal also with stakeholders who may not use a design and cannot escape being human, act as such, and intervene in human worlds they occupy with all other human beings. 
 
In my reading, the advocates of a non-anthropocentric design limit their attention to user-centered design (see Donald Normand's piece). I agree regarding the latter but suggest its generalization to the abstract modernist and traditionally dismissive concept of anthropocentrism glosses over several important distinctions. I like to toss in a concern by Gregory Bateson who asserted that conscious purpose (much of design activity and especially one that defines problems in search of solutions, even if these problems are extracted from users are purposive) destroys the very ecology in which humans have emerged and have to continue being with). Rigorous pursuit of conscious purpose has the unintended consequence of destroying the ground of our human existence. 
 
Whether you cite Bruno Latour's ANT, talk of designing the pistons of an engine, or express concerns for animals, it is utterly naïve to say that these are non-human phenomena. Technology is designed, produced, used by, and affects humans. Without engineers and drivers we wouldn't have piston engines although drivers may not have a clue of how they depend an them. Animals do not articulate their concerns. Human may love some and kill others. The ecology in which we live and our environment whose natural resources we carelessly consume does not speak to anyone. People speak for it, adopt a position of caring for it, improving it for our own benefit, or carelessly running it to the ground.  
 
We cannot talk of anything outside of our human conceptions. 
 
The world we know is a human construction.  
 
Living in our world inevitably changes it to the better or worse, but always in our human terms. 
 
The claim to engage in non-anthropocentric design either assumes the ability to play God or manifests a total lack of awareness of speaking a language that enables us, humans, to create worlds we can understand and live with.  
 
I suggest that non-anthropocentric design is an utterly naïve abstraction. If you want to make a useful contribution to design, you may want to write about non-user-centered design to distinguish it from what (some) engineers do, from what zoo-keepers think of, and environmentalists fight for.  These are important issues for designers to know, but designers should not be so naïve to exclude themselves from being held accountable for what they do. 
 
Klaus     
 
-----Original Message----- 
From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jinan K B 
Sent: Sunday, December 09, 2018 9:30 PM 
To: [log in to unmask] 
Subject: Re: Non-anthropocentric design research 
 
Dear Eric, Michelle, and others 
 
Hope you don't mind a completely different point of view. I hope this will make you look at things from a different perspective. This is reminding you there are other ways of knowing. 
First time hearing this idea of Non-anthropocentric design. Does this mean that at will one can be anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric? 
Like in the morning one does anthropocentric design and in the afternoon non-anthropocentric. 
 
I am totally confused. 
 
I have heard about anthropocentric worldview and eco-centric world view. To my understanding, we can not change our worldviews at will because it is part and parcel of our formation. It is embedded in our thought process, language etc 
 
Anthropocentrism is a product of modernity as the conditions that modernity provides can only produce anthropocentric people. Once again, I would like to state what I mean by modernity. It means mediated knowing rather than direct knowing. That is dependence on text, now digital for 'acquiring knowledge'. This also means discarding the biological aspects that enable us to know which is what all living beings, including the non-literate people, use to make sense of the world. It is discarding of this process embedded in life that has turned us into anthropocentric. 
 
The pliability of the brain can be a boon as well as a bane. In that sense, the conditions or the context is really powerful as it is what is dictating the formation of the brain which means our beingness or the mind. Cognition or 'learning' is not a one-way traffic. It is the process by which we become what we are. It is not only for knowing the world but for being in the world. So we are the product of text (the present generation of the digital) 
 
I would like to mention that among the indigenous languages there is no word for WASTE.  To waste is not part of their consciousness. The reason is their language is 'nature' centric as there no waste in nature. This is true nature centrism. Waste is a modern man's invention. At best what we attempt to do is to talk about recycling and not go deeper and find out how did this concept enter our consciousness. (What I mean by indigenous is a way of being and knowing rooted in context) 
 
Seeing nature as outside of us is the problem with modern humans. 
Nature is us! This is anthropocentrism. 
 
We have interfered in all the natural process, destroyed their habitat, destroyed the nature-centric people, denied their way of knowing and being and now pretend to help them. Help is the worst response one can do because help comes from arrogance and superiority complex. At this point, I would like to point out a speech Ivan Illich did few years to the US volunteers when they were planning to go to Latin America to 'help' them. 
 
To Hell with Good Intentions 
by Ivan Illich 
 
An address by Monsignor Ivan Illich to the Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects (CIASP) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on April 20, 1968. In his usual biting and sometimes sarcastic style, Illich goes to the heart of the deep dangers of paternalism inherent in any voluntary service activity, but especially in any international service "mission." Parts of the speech are outdated and must be viewed in the historical context of 1968 when it was delivered, but the entire speech is retained for the full impact of his point and at Ivan Illich's request. 
 
IN THE CONVERSATIONS WHICH I HAVE HAD TODAY, I was impressed by two things, and I want to state them before I launch into my prepared talk. 
I was impressed by your insight that the motivation of U.S. volunteers overseas springs mostly from very alienated feelings and concepts. I was equally impressed, by what I interpret as a step forward among would-be volunteers like you: openness to the idea that the only thing you can legitimately volunteer for in Latin America might be voluntary powerlessness, voluntary presence as receivers, as such, as hopefully beloved or adopted ones without any way of returning the gift. 
I was equally impressed by the hypocrisy of most of you: by the hypocrisy of the atmosphere prevailing here. I say this as a brother speaking to brothers and sisters. I say it against many resistances within me; but it must be said. Your very insight, your very openness to evaluations of past programs make you hypocrites because you - or at least most of you - have decided to spend this next summer in Mexico, and therefore, you are unwilling to go far enough in your reappraisal of your program. You close your eyes because you want to go ahead and could not do so if you looked at some facts. 
It is quite possible that this hypocrisy is unconscious in most of you. Intellectually, you are ready to see that the motivations which could legitimate volunteer action overseas in 1963 cannot be invoked for the same action in 1968. "Mission-vacations" among poor Mexicans were "the thing" to do for well-off U.S. students earlier in this 
decade: sentimental concern for newly-discovered. poverty south of the border combined with total blindness to much worse poverty at home justified such benevolent excursions. Intellectual insight into the difficulties of fruitful volunteer action had not sobered the spirit of Peace Corps Papal-and-Self-Styled Volunteers. 
Today, the existence of organizations like yours is offensive to Mexico. I wanted to make this statement in order to explain why I feel sick about it all and in order to make you aware that good intentions have not much to do with what we are discussing here. To hell with good intentions. This is a theological statement. You will not help anybody by your good intentions. There is an Irish saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; this sums up the same theological insight. 
The very frustration which participation in CIASP programs might mean for you, could lead you to new awareness: the awareness that even North Americans can receive the gift of hospitality without the slightest ability to pay for it; the awareness that for some gifts one cannot even say "thank you." 
Now to my prepared statement................ 
http://www.swaraj.org/illich_hell.htm 
Just replace the word poor and see what happens! 
Hope this email was useful in some amount of re reflection. 
 
 
On 09/12/2018, Michelle Westerlaken <[log in to unmask]> wrote: 
> Hi there, 
> 
> Thanks everyone for sharing so many useful resources and ideas about  
> non-anthropocentric / human de-centred design. 
> 
> In my PhD research I take an attempt at re-designing our interactions  
> and relationships with other animals by constructing a worldview  
> through which we can speculate on the meaning of “non-speciesism". Asking questions like: 
> what will a world that rejects speciesism be like? How will we engage  
> with other animals in such a society? What kind of animal encounters  
> can still take place? 
> 
> Actually, together with Erik Sandelin (who started this e-mail thread)  
> we just finished a podcast recording in which we discuss the struggles  
> we face in designing for/with other animals. Erik does a short reading  
> of his book involving design perspectives of Temple Grandin and we  
> discuss our transformations as designers in this field working with  
> animals including birds, cats, Magellanic penguins, and black ants.  
> It’s freely accessible 
> here: 
> 
> https://medea.mah.se/2018/12/vox-anti-speciesism/ 
> <https://medea.mah.se/2018/12/vox-anti-speciesism/> 
> 
> 
> Enjoy! 
> Michelle 
> 
 
-- 
Jinan, 
TEXT DISTORTS, DIGITAL DESTROYS, WORLD AWAKENS http://jinankb.in/ http://existentialknowledgefoundation.org/ 
http://rethinkingfoundation.weebly.com/ 
http://sadhanavillageschool.org/ 
https://www.youtube.com/user/sadhanavillagepune 
https://www.youtube.com/user/jinansvideos 
www.re-cognition.org 
https://independent.academia.edu/JinanKodapully 
09447121544 
 
 
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