In a changing world, most of the knowledge we need in order to act within it is not to be found in books. It should be rather created by operating in the same turbulent reality in which we find ourselves. For designers, doing so means to adopt a Research through Design approach: which is, to create design knowledge by developing projects, reflecting on them and sharing these actions-plus-reflection results.
This lecture discusses this statement by moving from a first basic assumption: since we are in the Anthropocene, whether or not to take into account the ecological emergency is no longer a design choice. In fact, we do no longer have a real choice, as we are forced to do something about it. In turn, the design choice is now about to choose in which direction to go: a choice that is largely depending on the mental maps we use.
Given that, the lecture proposes the map provided by Bruno Latour’s most recent reflections (B. Latour, Down to Earth. Politics in the New Climate Regime, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2018). In particular, it focuses on the need to acknowledge the existence of a new attractor: the living system of which we are part and that Latour names “the Terrestrial”. In this framework, the design research goal should orient and support us, designers and other social actors, in this process of learning how to be Terrestrial.
To give a concrete indication of how this kind of Research through Design can work, in this lecture I propose a concrete example of design research: the well-known Super Illes (Super Blocks) programme in Barcelona, integrated by the Super Illes+ Project (i.e. a scenario building activity driven by a design school together with external partners). The questions are: are these activities really generating sharable knowledge? Are them useful in order to provide some useful directions? Are they somehow helping us in being Terrestrial?