Making the human future more intelligent, visionary, creative and liberating
Looking through some old notes I haven’t seen in a while I came across the following. They contribute to a dialogue we on the left need to have and be mindful of, which centers around the theme of pushing back against conditions of conformity and forces that seek to narrow, confine, and limit us individually and socially.
“We believe that several key changes have happened since the high point of radical design in the 1970s that imaginative, social, and political speculation today more difficult and less likely. First, during the 1980s design became hyper-commercialized to such an extent that alternative roles for design were lost. Socially oriented designers such as Victor Papanek who were celebrated in the 1970s were no longer regarded as interesting; they were seen as out of sync with design’s potential to generate wealth and to provide a layer of designer gloss to every aspect of our daily lives… Design became fully integrated into the neoliberal model of capitalism that emerged during the 1980s, and all other possibilities for design were soon viewed as economically inviable and therefore irrelevant.”
“Market-led capitalism had won and reality instantly shrank, becoming one dimensional. There were no longer other social or political possibilities beyond capitalism for design to align itself with. Anything that did not fit was dismissed as fantasy, as unreal.”
p.8 in Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, By Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/speculative-everything
“A university affiliation for philosophers certainly has advantages: It roots out the phonies and incompetents; it provides thinkers with communities of peers; it keeps them in the black. But the training that Mandarins must undergo has the well-known disadvantage of churning out acolytes and clones rather than independent thinkers. Tenure can, in principle, serve to protect the freedom of the Gadfly to provoke and the Sage to meditate, but the graduate school, job market, and tenure track that must be endured along the way tend to produce a pliant, unmeditative type, willing to settle for a professorial chair, well-fed children, and picket fences.”
"When I teach this class on utopian thought I ask students...design your own utopia, or what should utopia include. And generally I'm amazed at the poverty of imagination--how limited people can think."
From an interview with UCLA Professor Russell Jacoby on Changesurfer radio [defunct], 'The Decline of Utopianism and the Public Intellectuals', from June 6, 2010. Jacoby teaches a course on Utopian thought, and is author of The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy.
"I had the opportunity to work with a very progressive design team, which had full participation of the owner, contractor, designer, and engineer in a highly integrated process. They were amazing in their ability to deliver on project specifications. At first, I thought there was no more room for improvement, they were so exemplary. But there was an Achilles heel, and that was the ability to collectively see and design a future state which transcended the limitations of current assumptions. They were their own obstacle."
This quote is from Vera Novak, a green building early adopter and blogger, and the first person to receive the US Green Building Council LEED certification:
The following is from an interview with Reinhold Martin, by Lee Stickells and Charles Rice. Martin is author of Utopia's Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again:
"Much of the impetus for writing the book came from sitting on design juries and teaching studios in which it was clear, time and again, that students were simply unable to think structural change in the present. ‘‘Architecture or revolution?’’ had ceased to be a question. Not universally, but predominantly."
"The utopian function of the university as a world apart, always-already compromised and ambivalent to be sure, is itself in danger of vanishing altogether."
http://www.scribd.com/doc/93395957/Interview-With-Reinhold-Martin-Utopia-s-Ghost-2010-Architectural-Theory-Review p. 325
"If there is any hope of utopian thinking, there must be a broad-based change in thinking about long-term futures, in ways that go beyond relief of the current problems. Would-be utopians must supply complex detailed images of the social, economic, political, and personal lives of all people if they are to have any credibility or have any value in directing the evolution of society. Utopian visions must be at least as grainy and engaging as their dystopian competitors.
Numerous things underline the absence of positive thinking about the future but at its core is a fundamental lapse in education, in thinking positively, in thinking systematically, and in thinking optimistically. A recent issue of the New Scientist reported on a contest looking merely to 2050; none of the contestants dealt well with the social and personal aspects of life.
My own experience, reported elsewhere, in conducting 250 people at a World Future Society meeting through a three-hour exercise on the next thousand-year future, was disappointing. People were asked as a wrap-up to create a picture or an image of some tiny piece of life in the world 3000. The responses could have been drawn from situations found in the previous six months of the New York Times."
From Joseph Coates in Viable Utopian Ideas: Shaping a Better World, Ed. by Arthur Shostak
Where does this leave progressives, lefties and radicals? What are we doing about the general poverty of imagination? How proficient are we in telling stories about the futures we want? How can we polish our social design lenses to see better and beyond what’s given us?