This talk engages the idea of posthumanist design. I investigate the potential to see design from the perspective of posthuman subjectivity. By posthuman, I mean thinking about the world as if humans share center stage with non-humans, and that we are all bound together materially, ethically, and existentially. I’m motivated by wanting alternative approaches to the vexing challenges of how we better co-inhabit our world with species and matter that are not human. And how we design technologies that we neither fully understand nor control.
I talk about “things” as a way to describe what we would design if we were a posthuman designer. I describe four assumptions that motivate this idea: things are 1) interconnected; 2) transformative; 3) relational; and 4) vital. This helps me to see what we have already designed in a new light that is not human-centred and to think of designing differently in the future.
I start with the idea that humans are “prosthetic creatures” and so what we design shapes who we are in ways including how we run, pray, and walk through our cities. Things are also relational and dynamic, meaning they are in need of constant interpretation, whether the thing is a bowl or a public bench. Things also have a certain aliveness and direct themselves at the world in ways we don’t fully understand, yet we rely on them. Finally, things are made of matter that is vibrant and agentic such that they appear to have “a life of their own” and so relate to us more like companions than tools. Lastly, in this exploration, a designer is not only human but includes technologies and matter that all act together to design things.Throughout the talk, I discuss design examples ranging from common objects to design research of my own and others. I also lean on thinkers that philosophically engage the idea of going beyond humanism. I end the talk with some directions on how I think, we as human designers that share the stage with non-human designers and matter, can co-shape the designing of things in ways that aspire to be equitable, political, and caring.
Ron Wakkary is full professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University in Canada where he is the founder of the Everyday Design Studio. In addition, he is a full time professor in Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology in the Future Everyday cluster. Wakkary is interested in design-oriented human-computer interaction (HCI) and the philosophies of technologies through design. Wakkary’s research investigates the changing nature of interaction design and HCI in response to new understandings of human-technology relations. Ron is currently a member of the Tangible Embedded/Embodied Interaction (TEI) and Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) steering committees. He is also a member of various editorial boards including International Journal of Design (IJD). He was co-Editor-in-Chief of ACM interactions from 2010 to 2016.
175 Columbia St. W.
Waterloo, ON N2L 5Z5