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Focus areas: the RSD11 seven

by | Apr 2022 | SDA blog

Each of the seven focus areas includes a small selection of indicative references, often material from the searchable RSD proceedings, which authors have used as a resource for building on the work of others. Work that directly responds to these focuses will be grouped in dedicated sessions to create new insights on these topics throughout RSD11.

A summary of each focus session is provided below and linked to an extended description.

Special thanks

Thanks to those who have proposed and developed the focuses: Christopher Daniel, Gareth Owen Lloyd, Dulmini Perera, Sally Sutherland, Ben Sweeting, James Tooze, Jeffrey P. Turko, and Josina Vink.

Confronting legacies of oppression in systemic design

Systemic design is often complicit in reproducing oppression, contributing to structural inequities being designed into our systems. Grappling with the systemic nature of oppression demands a sustained commitment to equity, self-determination, and liberation through and beyond systemic design. What can relevant thinking and doing related to systemic design aid in confronting the systemic nature of oppression and inform a more equitable approach? What is needed for systemic design to meaningfully reduce structural inequalities in the outcomes of our social systems?

Methods and the worlds they make

Methods have consequences beyond their utility, affording and perpetuating ways of understanding and organising the world much like any other artefact. As systemic design develops, its conventions, blind spots, and implicit values are formed. What worlds do these give rise to? How might systemic design’s methodological practices be understood as interventions in the world—modes of living and doing that establish different conventions and build different worlds Full description–

Designing radical shifts in and for planetary health

My health depends on your health, which depends on networks, systems, and webs of planetary health. Attending to health means fundamentally rethinking where (our) health comes from. However, these intersecting health entanglements are vast and complex. These networks or webs include elements that are difficult (if even possible) to be seen or measured in conventional empirical or rational terms. How might systemic design practices engage with ecological and global health reparation rather than reinforce individual wellness models? Full description–

Different stories in design: Provocations from the work of Gregory Bateson

Cybernetician and anthropologist Gregory Bateson challenged the reductive ways of engaging systems embedded in the stories built around modernity, human agency, technology, innovation, and design. In contrast to well-meaning attempts to address identifiable problems, Bateson explored themes such as dialogue, metaphor, and a secular rethinking of the ‘sacred’ as different logics of operations that could lead to different stories and engagements. How may we use Bateson’s provocations to rethink the problematic stories around design and modernity as mobilised in contemporary design practices? Full description–

Reimagining the intentionality of what architecture is and what/whom it is for

The discipline of architecture has been undergoing a “Cambrian explosion” of outcomes, influenced by methods, tools, and techniques driven by exponential growth in digital technologies. Latent in these developments are potential transformations of the discipline’s role in the built environment. What opportunities, and troubles, lie within these possibilities? How might this intense period of augmenting design processes and their outcomes also afford ways of reimagining the intentionality of what architecture is and what/whom it is for Full description–

Products are systemic objects

Design covers a spectrum of complexity, from the stylistic to the systemic. The structure is not a hierarchy but a stack. Even the most simple of objects, such as a pencil, have the potential to shape forests, fields and cities. Creating products means creating consequences: direct and indirect; intended and unintended; infinitesimal and seismic; dramatic and accretive. In this focus, RSD11 calls for contributions in circular design, regenerative design, and distributed design, where the designers of things act to shape the nature and legibility of economic, bureaucratic, ecological and cultural systems. Full description–

Design over time

The complexity of systemic challenges comes in part from their extended duration: organisations, places, and cultures are deeply rooted in past actions, while the consequences of interventions extend far into the future. Yet, it isn’t easy to think of the temporality of design beyond the consideration of years or decades. According to the Long Now Foundation, the “long now” spans 10,000 years before – and 10,000 years after – the present moment. What if one thought of systemic design in terms of centuries or millennia? How might this be possible, and what would its consequences be? Full description–


Final submissions are due on
April 30

Open call for Reviewers
April 1–30

Feedback to authors
June 30

sessions OCTOBER 16–18

RSD13-OSLO & Nordmarka Forest October 22–26

Lidar-derived image of the Danube River and floodplain near Tulln, Austria. Daniel Coe. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED