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Plenaries & panels

Integrating Selves and Systems through Ritual

Format: Plenaries & Panels, RSD9, Topic: Health & Well-being

Arvind Venkataramani and Adam Menter

Ritual is a lost technology of being. We propose that co-designed rituals are a way for people to consciously identify and navigate their relationships to the systems they are embedded in, and to construct or reshape selves to seek well-being.

Using experiences from a toolkit we have created to support the design of secular rituals, we show that making rituals designable creates agency for people trying to cope with intractable situations. We further show how the process of co-designing and preparing for rituals is itself a large part of dealing with challenging situations, and pose questions on how this approach may be replicated in more formal systems change and organizational contexts.

We believe that this approach to ritual design is a promising avenue to engage in the production of systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the tensions and inequities in our global economic and social systems. It is becoming increasingly clear to a large portion of humanity that some change is desperately needed. While political action can mitigate some of these impacts, deep systemic change will unavoidably require changes to how we see ourselves as citizens and agents.

Arvind Venkataramani is a user experience/design researcher focused on emerging technologies and emerging markets across a variety of domains. At SonicRim he leads research and co-design projects for clients in a variety of domains, most recently self-driving vehicles and mixed reality. Arvind has 14 years of experience using ethnographic, experimental, participatory design, and prototyping methods for clients such as Google, Microsoft, Ford, Genentech, Mozilla, amongst others. He has MC in Human-Computer Interaction from GeorgiaTech.

Arvind’s expertise lies in using a wide range of methodologies to create containers for learning about, framing, and navigating problem spaces. He brings ideas from group facilitation, conflict management, organizational culture, learning design, and complex systems theory to illuminate how and where human-centred processes struggle and how to resolve those conflicts and failures. Arvind ( is a co-designer for a toolkit that helps people design rituals, and has served on the advisory board for and been published in the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference.

Adam Menter is a systems thinker whose projects focus on catalyzing learning, building community, and facilitating healthy evolution in systems. He’s a designer whose process usually involves community & stakeholder co-design. At Autodesk, he’s a program manager working on social learning for customers. Last year he helped start the Autodesk Group Network. Prior roles at Autodesk include business architecture, product management for Autodesk University, and sustainable design education. Before joining Autodesk he worked at Jump Associates, a design strategy consultancy. He has a mechanical engineering degree and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. He’s also been a community leader and convener for purpose-driven people in the Bay Area for 10 years ( He loves photography and is at home in the redwoods.




Citation Data

Author(s): Arvind Venkataramani and Adam Menter: Co-designed rituals are a way for people to identify and navigate the systems they are embedded in, and to construct or reshape selves to seek well-being.
Title: Integrating Selves and Systems through Ritual
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
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First published: 8 October 2020
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