Ramia Mazé (2012) ‘Design Practices and the Micropolitics of Sustainability’, in Proceedings of 4S/EASST Conference on Social Studies of Science and Technology (Copenhagen, 2012).

"Having won the battle of ‘big public ideas’, as many argue, sustainability has a (cosmopolitical) potential to frame alignments across hemispheres, nation-states, socio-economic and interest groups. In this, sustainability is clearly not only an environmental – but a social and political – matter, which is insufficiently addressed in technocratic approaches prevalent within policy and technology development, urban planning, architecture and design. Postcolonial perspectives on STS, for example, elucidate how sustainability involves struggles – among ontological and epistemological framings, priorities in policy and design implementations, and those accessing and controlling resources within and across locations. Socio-technical approaches, thus, involve questions about how such struggles take place as social practices, considering social locations, material cultures and mediation processes. Practices of policy- and design- making, for example, involve a micropolitics of recognition and representation, just as practices of communicating and consuming involve forms of agency enacted in relation to policies and designs.

Such issues transform how we might understand and practice design. Indeed, from a field conventionally formulated in relation to mass production, market consumption and technical innovation, a growing number of contemporary design practices engage with public policy, social mobilization and political activism. My own work includes practice-based research and case studies in the area of sustainable development, in which I investigate the role of design interventions within domestic practices, participatory situations and organizational settings. In line with the ‘social’ turn within the sciences, I argue for ‘critical practices of design’, which are formulated and performed in relation to a micropolitical understanding of socio-material practices." (abstract)

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