This is a proposed abstract for a talk at Design Ethos at Savannah College of Art and Design in April
Social Design is an exciting new kind of designing that aims to help people instead of just making more stuff for the 1%. By working in human-centered, participatory ways on wicked problems, the down-trodden of the world can gain access to the power of design thinking.
But beware! Did you know that Social Design can also be a form of ‘neoliberalism’? Neoliberalism makes people think that free markets are the only, and best, option. It makes people believe that they can only make a difference as hard-working individuals. It cleverly turns people into flexible and even free sources of labor.
This presentation will highlight some of the things that might tell you that your social design project is in danger of being neoliberal, such as when it:
– promotes small group Coping rather than social Changing
– promotes small group Resilience through crises rather than societal Avoidance of crises
– avoids systems that let people escape Money, especially Electronic transactions
– avoids systems that let people operate Anonymously or Collectively, preferably getting them to use a fixed Digital Identity
– aims at making people more Flexible in terms of employable Skills
– aims at making people more Mobile with less attachment to particular Places or Products
– encourages Participation only at lower levels of systems and only ever in matters in which participants have a Direct stake
– encourages Voluntary contributions in systems that nevertheless have not-collectively-owned components
– celebrates Individual freedom, especially in the form of Choice
– celebrates Elegant Design as a Universal taste
Keeping these things in mind when you social design will ensure that you don’t accidentally exacerbate the very problems you are trying to solve.