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

Following in this direction, another french sociologist, Philippe Corcuff has recently proposed that the central essential project that sociology as a discipline has been pursuing, is a critical project : criticizing the distribution of power, of chances, of capital in society. And the expressions of such critics always reveal a particular engagement towards one of the few legitimate common goods of our modern, liberal, and democratic world. But for Corcuff, there is mainly two kinds of critic that sociologists has been expressing : a individualistic one, stressing that power is something people possess by their own, and an emancipatory one which takes power as a collectively built capacity. What is important to Corcuff is how sociology manage to express a critic that keeps its emancipatory quality (in line with Jacques Rancière work and somewhat opposite to Pierre Bourdieu sociology). There is a social critic that impairs individuals of all their capacity, another one that reveal their capacity.

To return to Simon’s writings, we might very well consider that what he saw in design was a quite similar project. To change a situation A into a more satisfying one B, one has to first see how unsatisfactory situation A is. In a way, one has to express some sort of critic about an existing world to engage in a legitimate project to change it. In that sense, we come to understand critic as one of the central task of design, although this has not always been clear. A second central task, ressorting from that first one, would be to express, or give form to common goods that could be authenticaly divergent to « situation A ».

The task of criticising one state of affair is really the one we wanted to discuss here. We think that the critical capacity of design is what is at stake in the development of social design. If designers has always been themselves subject to critics (environmentalism, consumerism, etc.), does design bear the essential resources to ground a critic that is adressed to a world they largely contributed to build. Asking such questions means, of course, that we think that these capacities are problematic : their existence is not self-evident, Authors like DiSalvo or Kiem, are only starting to scratch the surface of this. For instance, we must really ask if the work of Anthony Dunne, like the « Good goods » endeavor of Stark, bear any critical strenght : aren’t they just being objective allies of the world they claim to be critcizing ? What are we, so call social designers, objective allies of ?

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