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Switch! speculates on alternatives to current modes of energy consumption and challenges design that affirms the status quo or merely incremental change. Learning from the arts, social sciences, and environmental studies, Switch! conceives and materializes alternative ways of living – and consuming. Graphics, products, and the built environment are designed to express issues of ecological complexity, un/desirable futures, cultural norms, and social in/justice. Conceptually, the Switch! research program explores energy as embedded within multiple technical, material, social, and political systems – and designs that disrupt or introduce new values within these 'energy ecologies'. Methodologically, approaches from critical design, futures studies and design anthropology are developed to stage interventions and discussions in sites of consumption, professional settings, and public forums.

To anchor a challenge to design tradition as well as experiment with new approaches, Switch! comprised an international team from a range of disciplines, a high proportion of senior researchers and doctoral students as well as professional designers. Initiated as an event-driven process, the project unfolded through a series of 2-day events explored programmatic concepts through close reading, collaborative analysis, hands-on making, crits, and co-writing. Spin-offs to events included pre-studies and, eventually, 5 design-led research experiments conducted in parallel. Further initiatives included 2 postgraduate courses, a competitive summer internship program, a sponsored design-in-residence and further events with consumers and stakeholders. Switch! is an example of a curatorial approach to research management – an open-ended approach, structured by events but dependent upon bottom-up participation, which has facilitated deep disciplinary expertise, mutual learning, emergent collaboration, and radically new approaches.

Images (above)
(1) Depiction of traffic-stop Symbiots, (2) participatory event around critical Energy Futures, and (3) and performative ethnography of Telltale furniture.

My role
As research leader of Switch!, I have been responsible for initiating and conducting the project, including securing funding, building the team and managing operations. Directing the research involved framing the research program, developing formats for events and collaboration, team and individual supervision. I was also active as a researcher throughout, and I produced and edited a forthcoming book about the project.

Switch! was primarily funded by the Swedish Energy Agency in 2008-2010. Research lead: Ramia Mazé; Project team: Martin Avila, Sara Backlund, Jenny Bergström, Loove Broms, John Carpenter, Brendon Clark, Karin Ehrnberger, Alberto Frigo, Ramia Mazé, Aude Messager, Johan Redström, Thomas Thwaites, Anna Vallgårda, Christina Öhman, Başar Önal; Collaborators: maoworks (Tobi Schneidler, Tom Ballhatchet, and Solon Sasson), Olivia Jeczmyk and Bildinstitutet.

More about the project

See also

/ Teaching / [Un]Real Estate, MA course, Konstfack.

/ Teaching / Design Anthropology and Participatory Design, MA course, Umeå Institute of Design.

/ Teaching / Thesis projects / Önal, B., 'Designing for/from the Future', MA thesis in Experience Design, 2010.

/ Teaching / Thesis projects / Vallgårda A., 'Computational Composites', PhD in Interaction Design, 2009.

/ Teaching / Thesis projects / Bergström, J., 'Poetik och politik i det offentliga rummet', Postgraduate Artistic Development (KU) project, 2008-9.

/ Publications / Mazé, R. (ed) (2013) SWITCH! Design and everyday energy ecologies.

/ Publications / Avila, M., Carpenter, J., and Mazé, R. (2010) ‘3Ecologies’.

/ Publications / Bergström, J., Clark, B., Frigo, A., Mazé, R., Redström, J., and Vallgårda, A. (2010) ‘Becoming Materials’.

/ Publications / Mazé, R. (2010) ‘RE: Thinking Sustainability – Critical thinking and design practice’.

/ Publications / Mazé, R., and Önal, B. (2010) ‘Hands on the Future’.

/ Publications / Bergström, J., Mazé, R., Redström, J., and Vallgårda, A. (2009) ‘Symbiots’.

/ Publications / Mazé, R. (2009) ‘Critical Form(ations)’.

/ Publications / Mazé, R. (2008) ‘Criticality Meets Sustainability’.

/ Publications / Mazé, R., and Redström, J. (2008) ‘Switch! Energy Ecologies in Everyday Life’.