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Katie Cunningham

University of Brighton

Designing for isolated entities can lead to unintended consequences, as nothing can exist entirely on its own. There is an urgent need to recognise the interconnection and entanglement of life on Earth. Many cultures recognise these entanglements in deep knowledges learned across many generations, but some cultures with industrial practices have developed worldviews based on ideologies that separate humans from the rest of nature.

Dualist ideologies that seek to understand through establishing specialist areas have revealed a paradox; we may gain insights into the functioning of a specific component, but in doing so, we lose sight of how it exists in the wider world. How might recognition of entanglement affect approaches to the multiple predicaments we and all beings of the Earth face, such as the effects of climate change, physical and mental wellness, equity and how wealth is quantified?

My MA in Sustainable Design masterwork explores sympoiesis, which means to “make-with.” How do we learn to “make-with” the other beings, forms and forces we are entangled with but speak a different language to? I propose a sympoietic thinking practice as an exercise to encourage designers and researchers to consider the interconnection and interdependence of the beings, forms, and forces within their project and to challenge anthropocentric thinking. The tool is influenced by a diverse range of ontologies. It has been designed for use in industrial cultures, and I acknowledge that it might not be relevant to all people or cultures.

KEYWORDS: sympoiesis, sympoietic thinking, reflective practice, systemic design tool, design beyond anthropocentrism, more than human, interconnection.

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Citation Data

Author(s): Katie Cunningham
Year: 2022
Title: A Practice for Sympoietic Thinking
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 079
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/a-tool-for-sympoietic-thinking
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 23 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404