Design for the New: s1, s2 & s3

Session 1

What did we do?

During the past months students have been crafting a future vision and have been informally thinking about various interventions to approach it. The goal of this first session was to share a theoretical scaffold for understanding change through the perspective of social practices. For doing so first we suggested to understand the system in which this practices are embedded. Once identified the actants of that network we tried to understand their implicit and explicit needs. Everyday life can be understood as the emergent property of people going about the activity of satisfying their needs. Many of those needs are satisfied through the enactment of routinized behaviours.

Designing interventions that deliberately modify or create conditions for mutated or new (and more desirable) practices is one of the focus of this course. For that reason we projected and deconstructed the kind of social practices that could populate our future vision and tracked which present practices relate to those. For doing so, and following the performative approach that we are trying to bring over teaching methodologies, we used an exercise based on accessing collective imaginaries.


Some guiding questions:

  • How can we materialize the future? Different approaches to future prototyping.
  • How does change happen? Socio-technical transitions
  • How can design contribute to worldbuilding? Transition design as an approach to change through design.
  • Why using everydayness as the battleground for system change? In search of an intermediate entry point to change between structuralism and individual agency. Social practice theory.
  • How we can design for the creation/mutation/diffusion of desired social practices? Intentionality in design process. Differences between design for change in the range from individual behaviours to structural change.


Goal: To experience the relevance of social practices for the diffusion of the systemic changes needed for your projects to thrive.

Agenda (2h 15min)

  • Actor-network needs mapping
  • Mapping related social practices
  • Locating your interventions/projects
  • Collective practice deconstruction
  • Homework

What did work? What could have worked better?

The general feeling about the session was really good. I think students had the chance to explore further their intervention areas and somehow frame better they projects. The deconstruction approach, by collectively building social images about social practices, worked quite well. It helped build a poetic imaginary about the practice. Event though maybe it didn’t help too much to land their work in concrete terms. The reflection was help at an abstract and poetic level that might have not helped understand the reason for working at a social practice level. This became quite evident in session 2 when we shared the results from homework. The practical part was a little tight on time so we had to cut down some parts.

Group-working wise this situation left me a little hopeless about not having the chance to to explore all the exercises I had prepare.

Session 2

What did we do?

The first part of the session was dedicated to check about the homework. While doing a feedback circle it became evident that the notion of social practice and it’s meaning for their projects were not clear enough. That’s why we dedicated extra time there. We also took one of the practices, food buying, as an example for the rest of the session. The main focus of that day was to understand how we can design transition pathways, that’s to say, an intervention plan that may lead to the transformation and/or creation of practices needed for upbringing the kind of futures that we are pursuing.

For understanding change dynamics we explored different examples and approaches. We explored the social practice of bathing, extensively documented by academics in the social practice field such as Bakker, Shove, Kuijer et al. We also explored the socio-technical transition that lead to the omnipresent car in our streets, roads and lifes. By exploring those examples we tried to understand the influence that different material (technology, infrastructure…), ideologic (images, understandings, metaphors…) and social contexts had in the diffusion of change. This idea led to various conversations around the excessive power that we concede to technology as a means for change. The kind of techno-positivist approach to “progress” that overflows Silicon Valley and other technologic hotspots.

In that context we discussed about Transition Design as an ongoing body of knowledge and practice which, contrary to traditional disciplines of design, it is not defined by the kind of devices it creates (sensory, tactile, digital, volumetric, relational…) but by the impact it seeks to bring to the world or the intention that it embodies. To illustrate that we showed an array of different design interventions to tackle each of the elements of a social practice (images, stuff and skills) and their connections.

“Transition Design as an ongoing body of knowledge and practice which, contrary to traditional disciplines of design, it is not defined by the kind of devices it creates (sensory, tactile, digital, volumetric, relational…) but by the impact it seeks to bring to the world or the intention that it embodies.”


Some guiding questions:

  • How does change and transition unfold over time?
  • Which are drivers of change?
  • Which is our agency as designers?
  • Which different kinds of interventions can we design to foster our future visions?
  • How do those interventions relate to the system they operate in?


As we needed more time for working on the deconstruction of the social practices we didn’t follow the plan we had for performing transition pathways from an embodied intelligence point of view. On the other hand we shared some time to work in class and to tutorize each of the processes.

What did work? What could have worked better?

The general feeling from this class was quite bad. Rushing and not enjoying the process. This session made quite clear to us that we did not explain well enough the deconstruction of social practices. That led to a change in the agenda. We were quite open and fast to see the need to change plans.

While explaining the transition pathway and it’s conforming interventions we made the mistake to separate each of the element of the practice. In that way we missed the importance of the links between elements. Somehow I feel like we were forcing a simplistic and linear approach to change that does not make justice to its true nature.

Session 3

What did we do?

After the troubles of last session we decided to begin the third and last session with a good framing of what we were pursuing with this course. I’m sure this helped build a collective sense of the process and helped develop a fruitful session. The session commenced with a shareback from the homework. We did that by creating groups that could discuss their learnings while we could tackle some of the doubts that were emerging.

After that initial part we proceeded to deepen in an intervention that each groups selected. We did that by suggesting an investigative rehearsal taking as an inspiration the works from Adam StJohn Lawrence, Augusto Boal and others.

“(s)he must propose a theatre that is not the negation of theatre, but a new theatre, a theatre of the possibility of the impossible; not a theatre of identification but a theatre of transformation.”

Alain Badiou’s Theatre and Philosophy

We facilitated a session that led to several iterations of a prototyped intervention through a theatrical language.



Start: Even number of groups of 3 with a selected intervention

  • Groups explore questions for exploration
  • Groups create a starting point (situation)
  • Groups create a quick story draft (storyboard)

Mid: We get into 2 groups

  • Warm-up
  • Fast round to show the situations
  • We select a starting point
  • 1st round stopping to highlight interesting stuff
  • Iterative rounds stopping so suggest alternatives
  • The group records every insight
  • Whenever we feel is enough we go for the next situation

Finish: Goes on and on until the time is over

What did work? What could have worked better?

Even though this session was the least prepared one the general feeling was very good. The last round of check-out comments revealed that a physical approach to prototyping may unveil interesting insights for students. I could detect some lacks or improvement areas in the facilitation part. It is relatively difficult to take people non related to theatre to act out. We should have taken into account this and facilitate in a more progressive way.

My takeouts

I was very moved by this whole process at many levels. It challenged me, as it is a topic and an approach to teaching that still feels tentative for me. I enjoyed a lot having and giving myself the time to explore each topic, read, research, hypothesize and test in a weekly pace. I have been teaching for a couple of years now and I had already fall into the comfortability trap. This process has taken me out of the comfort zone. That’s fine.

At a personal level and regarding the teamwork I suffered it a little bit. Coping with different working styles is always a challenge. Being them also immersed in different life moments it became a double challenge. This week we will have the chance to discuss the internal dynamics which I am really looking forward to do.

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