Playful Encounters with Animals

Designing playful engagements with animals to find, imagine, or emphasize non-speciesist practices

Imagining Multispecies Worlds

It can be considered the most systemic, deadly, and all-encompassing form of violence that currently exists: speciesism, the oppression and exploitation of other animals, justified through the premise that certain species (such as humans) are inherently more morally worthy than others. Every year, humans kill more than 150 billion other animals for consumption. This number does not yet include animals used as entertainment (as pets or in zoos), for experimentation (in animal research), and the billions of animals worldwide that are kept alive and enslaved in dairy and egg farms. For most people on our planet, speciesism is something completely normalized, justified, and encouraged through many facets of dominant culture.

In the field of Critical Animal Studies, as well as certain branches of Ecofeminism and Posthumanism, the normalization of speciesism has been thoroughly questioned and analyzed; also in connection with other fields of Critical Theory by highlighting the intersectional connection between speciesism and other forms of oppression such as racism, colonialism, sexism, and classism.

But one topic is given little academic attention: what does a world without speciesism actually look like?

My research is concerned with the imagining of ‘multispecies worlds’, with the objective to construct positive rather than negating aspects of such worlds. What can a world that abandons speciesism contain? How will we engage with one another in such a society?

By engaging with these questions through the theory and practice of design, an area that is – in one way or another – always connected with the ‘possible’, and theoretically situated in the field of Ecofeminism and Critical Animal Studies, the contributions of this research currently include: (1) the articulation of a theoretical framework through which we can imagine what a counter-concept of ‘speciesism’ involves, (2) a tracing of already existing multispecies worlds by analyzing different design perspectives/projects, and (3) the expressing of these multispecies worlds through annotated illustrations, creating a multispecies repertoire as a means to inspire further design work.

As a PhD thesis in the field of Interaction Design, on its most basic level, the work seeks to contribute to the re-design and re-thinking of our interactions with other animals. Further, the focus on alternative scenarios, practically engaging in thinking-with other animals, the pluralist orientation towards futures, and the construction of worldviews that can give rise to alternative presents, are all traits that become increasingly relevant for (interaction) designers and researchers who challenge modernist/capitalist design perspectives and work towards more sustainable and holistic paradigms for designing on a deteriorating planet.

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