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Participatory Session: Designing new systems within a degrowth perspective


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Benjamin Tyl (1), Iban Lizarralde (2), Andrea Vetter (3)
(1) APESA, France
(2) ESTIA, France
(3) Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie, Germany

Internet, cellphones, social networks, electric bicycles, … most of the participants to the International Conference on Degrowth use consumer’s goods, most of them travel travels (plane, train, bike, …), even if these systems are often unsustainable and don’t fit with a degrowth society. Nevertheless, these systems are part of our current way of life and they are generated from a design processes.

However, the design perspective is surprisingly still under-estimated in the degrowth debate as if designers and design research could not offer any solutions. It is widely accepted that designers are deeply involved in mass production, generating negative social and environmental impacts and participate in a “junk production” process, i.e., a trivialization of innovation dealing with technological artifice, fashion, and denial of needs (Ariès, 2007). On the contrary, design can also propose a relevant contribution to the degrowth community. As underlined Spangenberg et al. (2010), “without the contribution of design, the full potential of sustainable production and consumption, and thus sustainability, cannot be realized”. But the role of design might be revisited to better cope with the various crises we are confronted with: the environmental crisis (through the depletion of natural resources, the uncontrolled generation of waste, the pollution of soil, water, etc….), the social crisis (poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, violence, ..) but also the democratic crisis.
An innovative perspective for designers, in line with the degrowth narrative, is to develop new or to improve and re-invent old or forgotten productive models to overcome capitalist models (Kostakis et al., 2015). Illich’s alternative to current design is focused on social solidarity, based on friendship and mutual giving, but is also “creatively accepting” its limits (Mitcham, 2003, p29). Moreover, designers must encourage users to become active participants in the design process, “embracing ideas of conviviality and exchange to foster social accountability and enhance communities” (Strauss and Fuad-Luke, 2008, p6).

A workshop to experiment design for degrowth tools
A “Design for degrowth” perspective is concerned less with consumption and more with reproduction, reduction, and relationships (Popplow and Dobler, 2015). In other words, such design is focused on a reduction of material goods and on an increase of relationship between actors (Lizarralde and Tyl, 2017). Until now, various design approaches, methodologies and tools have been developed to help designers meet sustainability targets (Birch et al., 2012): eco-design, eco-innovation, slow design, collaborative design,
In (Lizarralde and Tyl 2017), we proposed a large review of these design methods to counterbalance the different threats of the overgrowth of the system, which are beyond the boundaries of and incompatible with a sustainable society (Illich, 1973): (1) biological degradation, (2) radical monopoly, (3) over-programming, (4) polarization, (5) obsolescence, and (6) frustration caused by realization of several of the threats simultaneously. These methods helps designers develop concepts with an
environmental or social approach.
Moreover, in (Lizarralde and Tyl, 2017) and (Vetter, 2017), we also develop two tools directly engaging designers in the development of new products and services within the degrowth narrative, through the conviviality concept of Ivan Illich (1973):
- The Matrix of Convivial Technology (Vetter, 2017) is a tool to for the self-assessment of a system (product, service, etc.) in order to improve it.
- The framework proposed by (Lizarralde and Tyl, 2017) includes two guidelines, one for the product scope and another one for the sociotechnical system scope, composed of a set of recommendations that emerged from the relationship between the threats to conviviality and the life cycle stages.

The objective of this participatory session is to test these tools, in groups, and to discuss their relevance and suitability to better support the design of systems within a degrowth perspective. This participatory session will consist of a workshop with 15/20 participants (practitioners, scientists, activists, etc.), interested in or familiar with the designing of new systems within a degrowth perspective. The objective will be to use these design tools in order to imagine new degrowth-oriented concepts.

Agenda of the participatory session
The participatory session consists in a 2h30 workshop. It will be built on a specific case study as bike kitchen, alternative logistic systems, open workshops, hackerspaces, urban agriculture, etc. (ideally from a Malmö context) that will be challenged by 3 to 4 groups. This workshop consists in five main parts:
1. Presentation of the main challenges of design and of both tools (20 min)
2. Workshop 1: Evaluation of a specific case study with a degrowth perspective (45min)
3. Workshop 2: Generation of new concepts with a degrowth perspective (45min)
4. Presentation of the results (10min)
5. Debate on both the design process and the results (30 min)

- Sharing of design tools for degrowth
- White paper presenting the results of the workshop
- Scientific paper on the results
- Development of a teaching course about “design for degrowth” for summer schools on degrowth and on design.


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 16:00
Duration: 02:00
Room: ABF (210)
Track: Technology in a Degrowth Society




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