Qu’est-ce qui ne serait pas du design social ? Retour de STS Italia

La discussion n’a pas permis de clore le débat. La question des ressources critiques offertes par le design a à peine été effleurée. Mais il est ressorti de cette rencontre un nouveau chantier, une nouvelle perspective pour avancer dans la définition du design social : plutôt que de se demander qu’est-ce que le design social, peut-être vaut-il mieux tenter de définir ce qui n’est pas du design social.
Le texte qui suit a été prononcé en ouverture de ce colloque afin de préparer la discussion qui allait suivre les présentations des participants.


by Philippe Gauthier, Alain Findeli, Sébastien Proulx, Johanne Brochu, Christophe Abrassart

The recent cross-breeding between design and social innovation sparks some interesting debates about the adequacy and real benefit of design for the search of answers to our political and social problems. What is so social about design in the first place ? Even if we do understand design as a set of practises that impact on the artificial environment we lean on in our everyday activities, hense on our material culture, can we really link that social dimension to the characteristic intention of designers ? On the other hand, if many recent experiences acknowledge the potential of design to support innovations stemming from local communities, does it really bear the essential critical ressources on which communities initiative hinges ?
The idea we were pursuing while proposing this track has two distinct theoretical rootings.

  • One the one hand, our questions rise from the omnipresent view of Herbert Simon about desgn. A curiosity-led somewhat systematic survey of recent litterature on design shows that our community still generally endorses Herbert Simon’s view of a designer as someone who engage in transforming our world for the better, to make it more satisfying ;
  • On the other hand, we have been working a lot with what is now coined french pragmatic sociology, notably, french sociologist’s Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s work. The theoretical model they have been pushing bring to the fore the moral plurality of our world. Agreement between persons, thus coordination of collectives, can only be achieve insofar as there exist a shared sense of justice, of rightness, of worthiness between them. But there exists many conceptions of what is just, what is right, and what is worthy of interest and engagement in everyday life. In their main work, Boltanski and Thévenot succeeded in characterizing six of those conceptions we would coined conceptions of common goods. In social interaction, those conceptions are competing with each other, they lend themselves to the diverse form of critics that actors can express with regard to a common situation, until an agreement is reeched about what is right and just and worthwhile in that particular situation.

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