Designing engagements with animals to find, imagine, or emphasize non-speciesist practices
In November 2019, I was invited to give a talk at the WUD Silesia conference in Katowice (Poland). I met a lot of inspiring designers and made a bunch of new friends. The conference
I’m sharing the recording of the (30min) talk itself. It’s titled “It Matters what Designs Design Designs: Speculations on Multispecies Worlds”
It is a title adapted from a catchphrase by Donna Haraway (from her 2016 book Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. The talk is essentially about why I prefer to understand design as “negotiating possibilities”.
Traditionally, the field of design is established by humans, with the goal to develop artefacts and interactions for humans. Nowadays, however, most designers also learned that their practice has a large impact on the environment and that it is always politically charged. This means that design processes and outcomes are never innocent, and do not only affect humans, but all kinds of entities and living beings.
In this talk, I elaborate on the implications of this statement with a focus on designing – not only for humans – but for other animals as well. I argue that, to be able to break with our outdated anthropocentric assumptions, we need to find the kinds of stories (or designs) that can inspire us to think differently about our current world and our relationships with other animals. This is a crucial first step in coming up with ideas for alternative futures.
The second part of the talk features a range of examples from the field of design in which humans and other animals are already negotiating a move from speciesist (oppressive and exploitative) relations, towards more respectful – multispecies – encounters. Here I also include some of the ways in which cats, dogs, ants, and penguins have been involved in my own design projects.
The field of design is – in one way or another – always connected to the ‘possible’. The aim of this talk is therefore to encourage designers to move from a focus on only critiquing the status quo towards finding ways to inspire other, more desirable, possibilities for the future.