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Margherita Vacca, Francesco Cantini, Alessio Tanzini, and Fabio Ballerini

University of Florence, Department of Architecture, Laboratory of Design for Sustainability

As Laboratory of Design for Sustainability (LDS), our main objective is to investigate and analyse the contribution of design to complex contemporary challenges, applying the sustainable paradigm through a systemic and critical approach, i.e. in its multiple environmental, social, cultural and economic nature.

The presentation starts with a reflection on global upheavals, such as the proliferation of ecological disasters, lack of care for the Other and the Elsewhere, and growing social inequalities. We propose the need to redirect the attention of design towards an eco-social perspective as the two components are deeply intertwined and cannot be addressed individually (Armiero, 2021).

So how do we design in time of trouble? Through national and international research and development projects, we have investigated and studied how to answer this question, trying to outline and promote an eco-social perspective of a highly systemic and speculative nature. The invitation for design is to engage in critical dialogue with other disciplines; in this sense, we will present case studies that have seen the establishment of interdisciplinary design discourse, including areas relating to the Social and Natural Sciences. The aim is to compose a scientific framework of interdisciplinary methods and tools (design-driven, co-design, systemic thinking, participatory approach) that arises in the border spaces between knowledge and points of critical dialogue among academic silos. A tentacular operation (Haraway, 2016) is necessary to understand the complex challenges or missions that await the designer to explore new possibilities of applying systemic thinking to design and develop a critical point of view essential for promoting an alternative to the status quo.

The output of our critical enquiries is the development of an eco-social design framework consisting of three design formulas. They provide a possible direction for design research and practice dealing with complex issues and transdisciplinary connections. By visualising a different and critical application of the systemic approach, we intend to present how design research, practice and methodology can be enriched and “re-meant” by adopting an eco-social perspective.

KEYWORDS: eco-social perspective, system thinking, design methodology, system design applications, beyond anthropocentrism

The eco-social perspective results in a framework of a systemic and rhizomatic nature and represents a mapping of the design flow that acts in an osmotic way: passing from micro to macro contexts and interacting with heterogeneous disciplines

The three formulas, specifically, are Human + Human (anthropocentric dimension), Human Augmented (intermediate dimension that wants to overcome the anthropocentric vision by incorporating systemic flows such as green transition and digital transformation), Human + Non-Human (effective overcoming of anthropocentrism and definition of a new humanism, more inclusive, systemic and in dialogue with other species).

Sketchnote by Patricia Kambitch | Playthink

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Citation Data

Author(s): Margherita Vacca, Francesco Cantini, Alessio Tanzini, and Fabio Ballerini
Year: 2022
Title: Toward an Eco-Social perspective: How to design in time of trouble
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 183
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/toward-an-eco-social-perspective
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 20 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404