Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
2.b 1/1: Design & Democracy
Friday, 21/Jun/2019:
11:10am - 12:50pm

Session Chair: John Richard McCardle
Session Chair: Brian Baldassarre
Location: LDN.102
1st floor Loughborough University London 60 capacity

Session Abstract

The issue of design and democracy is an urgent and rather controversial one. Democracy has always been a core theme in design research, but in the past years it has shifted in meaning. The current discourse in design research that has been working in a participatory way on common issues in given local contexts, has developed an enhanced focus on rethinking democracy. This is the topic of some recent design conferences, such PDC2018, Nordes2017 and DRS2018, and of the DESIS Philosophy Talk #6 “Regenerating Democracy?” (, from which this track originates. To reflect on the role and responsibility of designers in a time where democracy in its various forms is often put at risk seems an urgent matter to us. The concern for the ways in which the democratic discourse is put at risk in many different parts of the word is registered outside the design community (for instance by philosophers such as Noam Chomsky), as well as within (see for instance Manzini’s and Margolin’s call Design Stand Up ( Therefore, the need to articulate a discussion on this difficult matter, and to find a common vocabulary we can share to talk about it. One of the difficulties encountered for instance when discussing this issue, is that the word “democracy” is understood in different ways, in relation to the traditions and contexts in which it is framed. Philosophically speaking, there are diverse discourses on democracy that currently inspire design researchers and theorists, such as Arendt, Dewey, Negri and Hardt, Schmitt, Mouffe, Rancière, Agamben, Rawls, Habermas, Latour, Gramsci, whose positions on this topic are very diverse. How can these authors guide us to further articulate this discussion? In which ways can these philosophers support and enrich design’s innovation discourses on design and democracy, and guide our thinking in addressing sensitive and yet timely questions, such as what design can do in what seems to be dark times for democracy, and whether design can possibly contribute to enrich the current democratic ecosystems, making them more strong and resilient?

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11:10am - 11:35am

Redesign democratic debates

Danielle Arets, Bas Raijmakers

Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands, The

For the revitalisation of democracy, healthy public debates are key as many scholars have stressed throughout history. There is currently a genuine cry out to get rid of polarized debates and work towards consensus. However, over time, philosophers as Aristotle (384-322 BC), Arendt (1958), Mouffe (2000, 2005), have convincingly argued that struggle, agony and conflict are part of a healthy democracy and that we need to design rules to retain these conflicts. How can design offer us the means, tools and spaces to better articulate differences and to deal with current polarized debates? To answer this rather ambitious question, we will first sketch how public debates have evolved over time, mapping out the rules that were designed to prevent conflicts to go out of hand. After that we will dive into a specific case study that we explored during a DESIS philosophy workshop during (October 2018). Based on the generated insights, we will demonstrate how design can offer us meaningful tools for constructive debates.

Track 2.b-Redesign democratic debates-274Arets_a.pdf

11:35am - 12:00pm

An Immanent Criticism of Urban Design in Montevideo

Washington Morales Maciel

Universidad de la República (Uruguay), Uruguay

The debate about the so called “excluding design” has been a focus for applied philosophy for several years. The structure of this debate is constituted by deontological and consequentialist’s applied ethics and as well as agonistic democratic approaches. This paper asks for the applicability of these points of view to the particular socio-political reality of Montevideo. Examining this reality closer, I hold that we cannot comprehend the recent aestheticization of the excluding design there through these contemporary philosophical frameworks. As an alternative philosophical procedure, I analyze the aestheticization of excluding design in Montevideo from Rahel Jaeggi’s immanent criticism. I hold that this process of aestheticization implies an ideological regressive “form of life”. And I also argue that the Uruguayan democracy is affected by this ideological regression. Nevertheless, because this aestheticization is not an exclusive Uruguayan phenomenon, this paper intends to open one direction in applied philosophy of urban design.

Track 2.b-An Immanent Criticism of Urban Design in Montevideo-399Morales Maciel_a.pdf

12:00pm - 12:25pm

A Framework for Civic Conversation

Michael Arnold Mages

Northeastern University, United States of America

Systemic changes in people’s relation to democratic government and governance have been widely noted over the last 40 years. Concurrently, participation in civic life has declined. Drawing from approaches in service design, this article proposes a design-led structure for democratic engagement that serves two goals: the provisioning of people’s expertise on policy decisions for governmental use, and scaffolding of civic life. The paper details a structure that has been tested and refined in over 30 community meetings, and suggestions for effectively evaluating meeting outcomes.

Track 2.b-A Framework for Civic Conversation-412Arnold Mages_a.pdf

12:25pm - 12:50pm

‘Democrazy’, designing for democracy in Eastern Europe

Noémi Zajzon, Sharon Prendeville, Burçe Celik

Loughborough University London, United Kingdom

For design to attend to democratic endeavours it is not enough to rest on the claim that design is implicitly political, but to understand how democratisation — often in the name of political modernisation — has designed different social realities. Focusing on the ‘how to’ of infrastructuring for democracy has advanced a designerly politics-in-practice, and exploring political concepts in design experiments have made design more aware of the democratic conflict. Theoretical work-in-progress, this paper asks whether the concepts internalised within design literature are valid enough to think about infrastructuring for democracy in the context of Eastern Europe. We depart from the theoretical and practical difference between design for politics and political design to 1) understand how each of these concepts enable a democracy to come in Eastern Europe’s Romania, and 2) what are the entry points for design research to understand the democratic experience. We explore this through a participatory intervention in Bucharest.

Track 2.b-‘Democrazy’, designing for democracy in Eastern Europe-391Zajzon_a.pdf

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