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Individual Paper: Fostering care in the aftermath of progress

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When plastics was first brought into being it came with modernist visions of human mastery over nature (c.f. Davis 2015). Plastics was often used as a cheaper and lighter alternative to so called natural materials. It was imagined to rid humans from constraints posed by nature and to enable a carefree life. Our contemporary spacetimes are marked by the aftermath or “ruins” (Tsing 2015) of these modernist, progressivist and anthropocentric ways of thinking and doing. Plastic waste, for example, is becoming an urgent issue in need of care as it accumulates (Gabrys et al 2013) in oceans, plants, soils and bodies.

Within design, there have been many attempts to respond to these emerging issues, for example through recycling plastics and replacing petroleum-based plastics with bioplastics. Although these responses are often framed as hopeful innovations, they are predominantly acting within an anthropocentric and productivist framework and can be understood as contributing to so called green growth.

In parallel to these designerly responses there are calls for redirecting our attention away from techno fixes, and to cultivate arts of living on a damaged planet (Tsing et al 2017). This move involves “staying with the trouble” (Haraway 2016) and to foster care in more than human ecologies (Puig de la Bellacasa 2017).

In this paper we will discuss a series of public engagement events, that can be understood as tentative and designerly responses to the above mentioned calls. The events are based on two recent nature/culture entanglements of plastics; 1) a new geological entity called plastiglomerates (Corcoran et al 2014) that consists of basalt stone and plastics, 2) common mealworms that can biodegrade styrofoam (Yang et al 2015). Our discussion will focus on how these engagements managed to foster caring relations to past as well as to future potential entanglements with plastics. Drawing on Puig de la Bellacasa (2017) we will thus discuss how care can act as an alternative to linear progressivist frameworks that is still dominant within design. Furthermore, this is a proposed shift from carefree relations to care that cannot be pushed to particular times as advocated within modernist logics, but rather something that demands ongoingness (Dengler and Strunk 2017).


Day: 2018-08-23
Start time: 14:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ABF (206)
Track: Care, gender and feminism



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