AHO Logo


Type of project
01.06.2016 -> 31.08.2017

This project has been completed

About the project

This 7th Nordic Design Research Conference comes at a time when earlier social, political and economic conditions, expectations and frameworks are under pressure, and indeed change, globally. Relations between design and power are today perhaps more present that before and them are seemingly strongly polarised. What then are design practitioners, educators, researchers, policy makers and activists, among others, to make of these changes and how are they to engage in effecting informed, ethical, participative and meaningful change?

The theme of DESIGN + POWER allows us to take up what are difficult and dynamic relationships of design in the face of current societal challenges, needs of the design professions and wider political and economic forces. We are able to do so, and need to do so, precisely because design and design research are co-creative, productive and forward looking in character and actions. We have built a substantial body of related research but we need to work actively to ensure its survival and adaptation. Different interpretations of power are invited that may address its unfolding, for example, in terms of positionality, norm-criticality, feminisms, decolonism, materiality, temporality, responsibility, justice, equality, ethics, politics, governance, institutions, participation and engagement.

The theme DESIGN + POWER draws our focus to important relationships between our practices and research in design and the powerful forces of change and conservatism that are prevalent today. Design research needs to face up to these changes and the many challenges they present to us and to our assumed positions, practices and research world views. The conference is agonistic in its orientation, yet it will be filled with debates and detailed research offerings that tease our and bring to the surface relations and negotiations between design and power. Design needs to engage culturally and critically when earlier models of consensus are under threat and erasure. It must face up to changing conditions and expectations between the academy and its publics, between commerce and culture and better define and demarcate its own dynamics, means of impact and commitment to social, economic and cultural betterment.

We live in times of increasing divergence between the super wealthy and billions of global citizens without basic provisions and rights. Global finance continues to re-engineer its own interests while democratic processes are overridden militarily and infiltrated by the mediation of false witness and public political processes. Technology determinism is again rife as robotics and artificial intelligence are promoted as future solutions to post-industrial development. Smart cities and smarter homes are presented as givens. Hybrids of products, interactions and services are emerging rapidly, with relatively little critique and social or cultural analysis. Strong claims are made for social media’s roles in enhancing deliberative democracy and locative, contextual participation, yet we have seen the force of state power in the face of citizen challenges. Focus on the experiential has emerged in the growth of Service Design at the same time as Systems Oriented Design reminds us to engage with wider holistic views on the complexity of the social, technical, creative and cultural. Gender, race, cultural diversity, knowledge mediation and sustainability, amongst others continue to be important but how does design engage with them?