I was invited by the Design Research Society to speak at their symposium in Birmingham, UK. Their theme: 2050 and All That.
So first I did a quick scamper through Peak Everything: peak climate, peak biodiversity, peak oil, peak food, peak water, peak credit and so on; I touched on Adbusters' notions of a Doomsday Machine Economy and True Cost Economics; and I repeated my proposition that we are all emerging economies now.
For part 2 of my talk, I tabled two keywords that I find work well in re-framing our situation as “terrible — but not hopeless.” The first word was catagenesis which means “renewal through reversion to a simpler state — followed by the emergence of a novel form of society.” The second word was resilience which means (in the words of Transition Towns) “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance, and reorganize, while undergoing change.” I concluded this second part of my talk with the proposition that design research needs to evolve from a human-centered to an all-of-life-centered activity.
In preparing part 3 of my talk, I had a good idea that, given what I know about design researchers, they'd be thinking by this point: "yeah, yeah, end of civilization, yadda yadda — but where's the cool research opportunity?"
So I went to Birmigham prepared. I asked the design researchers to imagine, with me, that a Doors of Perception University had been established and that, in 2020, a degree-awarding ceremony was about to take place:
Twenty-five PhDs were to be awarded at this ten-years-from-now ceremony - and I had brought along copies of the theses of the successful candidates to show them. And here they are:
(I believe Dena Fam may aleady be busy on just this PhD, in which case apologies.)