Counterparts: Exploring Design Beyond the Human

Swiss Design Network Research Summit
27 & 28 October 2022
Zurich University of the Arts

In light of ecological crises and ongoing mass extinction through anthropogenic impact, it has become vital to reassess design’s involvement in constructing a “one-world reality” (Law 2015) that gives precedence to a specific notion of the human to the detriment of all that is deemed outside it. Contemporary debates in anthropology and environmental studies that question human exceptionalism have called for redirecting our attention to the interdependence of living and non-living beings—including animals, plants, materials, objects, physical forces, and spirits (Puig de la Bella Casa 2017)—to allow a “conversation across worlds” (de la Cadena & Blaser 2018). In recent years, design has widened its perspective toward more-than-human ecologies and has formulated the possibility of a post-anthropocentric design practice (Escobar 2018, Akama et al. 2020, Wakkary 2021).

This working conference asks about the current state of the aforementioned discussion and what implications it has for design research, practice and education. The conference aims to provide a basis for a joint exploration of what happens when we shift away from human-centered and universalist views of design and begin contemplating future ways of co-existing and co-emerging with others on this planet. Which ideas, experiences, practices, and possibilities unfold in the wake of such a shift? How can design be re-thought accordingly?

Conference Chairs

Prof. Dr. Sarah Owens (ZHdK), Dr. phil. Björn Franke (ZHdK)

Conference Committee

Prof. Anthony Masure (HEAD), Prof. Dr. Davide Fornari (ÉCAL), Martin Wiedmer (HSLU), Dr. Meret Ernst (FHNW), Prof. Dr. Minou Afzali (HKB), Serena Cangiano (SUPSI)