Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Graduate Seminar on the Anti-Politics of Design

Here are the first few weeks of the syllabus for my graduate seminar at the San Francisco Art Institute, Designs On Us. The course began as an idea for a book that never went anywhere -- for whatever reason, I think elaborating arguments through course trajectories suits me more than doing so in longform books. Anyway, the syllabus goes on from here, but the textual assignments change quite a bit as the weeks go on, so there is no point posting the rest of it here and now. If you are interested, click the link to the course blog and you can read the assignments as they arrive. The assignments usually arrive at their final form no later than the Friday before the following session.  

CS-500H-01 Designs On Us: The Politics and Anti-Politics of Design

Course Blog:
Dale Carrico:;

Attendance/Participation, 10%; Precis, 10%; Designer Presentation, 10%; 10+ Comments, 10%; Symposium Presentation, 10%; Final Paper, 50%

The proposal that is the point of departure for our course is that design discourse is a site where at once politics is done and politics is disavowed. Design as a site of "designation" invokes the gesture of naming as mastery, of reduction as revelation, of problems as provocations to instrumental technique and not stakeholder struggle, a mentalité with its own paradoxical temporality, publicity, linearity, cognition. Design as a site of the "designer label" is an indulgence in fetishism, of the commodity-form, of an auratic posture, of a psychic compensation of lack and its threat. To elaborate and pressure these propositions, we will spend quite a bit of time in the critique of three design discourses in particular: one, Green design which would accomplish sustainability without history; two, social/p2p software design which would accomplish democracy without participation; and three, eugenic design which would accomplish life-enhancement without lifeway diversity. In your individual presentations I hope we will ramify our attentions to other design sites: comparative constitutions, fashion design, food styling, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape design, "life coaching," and who knows what else?

Week One | August 27 -- Introductions

Added, for those who mentioned during the opening lecture that they might like a little more background on the fetishism of the Designer Label:

Marx on The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof from Capital
Walter Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility
Naomi Klein, Taking On the Brand Bullies from No Logo

Week Two | September 3 -- Biomimicry, Cradle to Cradle, Natural Capitalism

Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology
Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Eating Fossil Fuels
Janine Benyus, Echoing Nature
Biomimicry Institute, Velcro
William McDonough & Michael Braungart The NEXT Industrial Revolution
Cradle to Cradle -- Principles
Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, Paul Hawken, A Roadmap for Natural Capitalism
OpenPolitics Critiques of Paul Hawken and Natural Capitalism

Week Three | September 10 -- Permaculture and Viridian Design

Bruce Sterling, When Blobjects Rule the Earth
Bruce Sterling, Manifesto of January 3, 2000
Viridian Design Principles
Bruce Sterling, Last Viridian Note
Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry, A 50-Year Farm Bill
The Land Institute: (a) Issues (b) Solutions (c) Science
Navdanya: About Us
GEN: Global Eco-Village Network: Definitions
Permaculture Design Principles, Online Interactive Presentation

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