Design practice always happens under a particular set of forces, commonly known as constraints. These constraints may be straightforward and indisputable, such as a physical or material quality: the force of gravity, the tensile strength of a structural beam, or a financial budget, and provide tangible limits to be adhered to or challenged. Constraints, however, also exist in more abstract, systemic or hidden forms.
These can have a significant impact on the potential of design, resulting in a paucity of original thinking and a chronic neglect of responsibility. For example, national systems of infrastructure, such as energy grids or roads, have become so normalised that they constrain designers to simply designing for or within the dominant paradigm. The constraint of positivity or progress dogma, blinds those influencing the future (scientists, technologists, politicians, designers, etc.) from the potential negative implications of their proposals. This presentation will firstly explore some of the more dominant oblique constraints and the ways in which they negatively influence the role and purpose of design. And secondly describe how design, practiced outside of these constraints, can facilitate more inclusive, holistic, and environmentally responsible futures.
James Auger is an associate professor at Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI) in Portugal. His current research explores the potential of the Island as an experimental living laboratory through a combination of fictional, factual and functional multi-scale energy-related proposals and projects. This work was recently awarded the Cultural Innovation International Prize by the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB).
After studying Design Products (MA) at the Royal College of Art James moved to Dublin to conduct research at Media Lab Europe (MLE) exploring the theme of human communication as mediated by technology. After MLE he worked in Tokyo as guest designer at the Issey Miyake Design Studio developing new concepts for mobile telephones. Between 2005 and 2015 James was part of the critically acclaimed Design Interactions department at the RCA, teaching on the MA programme and continuing his development of critical and speculative approaches to design and technology, completing his PhD on the subject in 2012.
Running parallel to his academic work James is partner in the speculative design practice Auger-Loizeau, a collaboration founded in 2000. Auger-Loizeau projects have been published and exhibited internationally, including MoMA, New York; 21_21, Tokyo; The Science Museum, London; The National Museum of China, Beijing and Ars Electronica, Linz. Their work is in the permanent collection at MoMA.
Other talks from James
2018 - Gossip on the BlockEN
This presentation will explore how information is captured (interpreted), emotionalised (gossip), politicised (propaganda), fabricated (fake news) and pre-empted (prediction) with a particular focus on the role technology plays and could play in mediating these factors.