Deep Dive into More-than-Human Design

Through design we are transforming the planet. And while there is often a beneficial intent to design, the transformative consequences of design, whether user-focused or not, are not always positive: from climate change to resource depletion to surveillance capitalism. A more-than-human perspective acknowledges that humans are more than users, they are part of an ecosystem. Within this ecosystem, it is not exclusively humans that act and produce effects; microorganisms, plants, animals and algorithms do so too. But how to conceive of these entanglements, and how can design be transformed to meet the needs of an entangled world?

More-than-human design promotes the idea that to explore the futures we might face, we need to inquire into what happens when we step out of an anthropocentric view of the world. Not because humans matter less, but because design ideals such as users, product, functionality etc. are not serving us well and actually have contributed to a society that threatens inclusion, diversity and wellbeing.

The discussions about how to include the knowledge and behaviour of nonhuman entities in design highlight that:

    • We need to develop a new understanding of agency in design;
    • We need an awareness of the agentive roles of nonhuman entities in doing design;
    • We need to map the methods and processes used to do the above.

These themes are urgent but not fleshed out, and we will need to do some of the imaginative work ourselves. We will do so in relation to:

    • More-than-human design and environment 
    • More-than-human design and technology 
    • More-than-human design and biology

In this course we dive into the literature, gather and discuss examples, and together formulate hypotheses and experiments for how designers can craft new capacities for meaning and action at the intersection of humans and nonhumans.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to:

    1. Explain and give examples of key concepts related to more-than-human design, including agency, co-performance and habitability;
    2. Present, discuss and critically evaluate assigned texts on practical and theoretical issues regarding more-than-human design;
    3. Conceptualize and design artefacts, methods and processes based on key concepts learned.

The sessions will be moderated by prof. Giaccardi and prof. van Eekelen.