Design Power

Hacking on a workshop plan and thoroughly appreciating Power - A Practical Guide for Facilitating Social Change:

First of Power! “Power can be the ability to act visibly in ways that affect others, but it is also the power to act behind closed doors through more hidden and invisible means. Power can be about what is on the agenda, but also what is kept off; about who speaks, but also who does not; about whose voices count, as well as whose voices go unheard. As such, power is about what we see easily and experience directly, as well as what we do not see. For this reason, we need deliberate and creative ways to understand it and to make how power affects our everyday lives more legible and visible to ourselves and to others.”

And from Making Change Happen: Power (PDF):

“In reality, power is dynamic, relational and multidimensional, changing according to context, circumstance and interest. Its expressions and forms can range from domination and resistance to collaboration and transformation. This is good news for social justice promoters whose strategies depend upon new opportunities and openings in the practice and structures of power.”

Information design can be a useful tool to visualize and understand sources of power — and as a result facilitate the mobilization of power.

>  29 November 2011 | LINK | Filed in ,

Good vs Power

From Orion Magazine:

“Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal ‘solutions’?”

Via Design Action and Design Activism I found this essay by Derrick Jensen on the polite activism of personal consumption and “living ethically.” Though Jensen doesn’t direct it at designers specifically, he identifies a strong trend in contemporary activism that’s pervasive amongst designers, particularly in the whole sustainable design movement. I’ve noted this before, as have others: after a hard strategic review last year, the World Wildlife Fund published a major report attacking green consumerism and “behaviour-change” strategies, calling instead for radically different approach to environmentalism.

Sandino Vive!Sometimes constructing alternatives can be an effective way to go, the Free Software movement being one shining example. But at the risk of spoiling his punch line, Jensen points to successful political struggles of the past: “We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.”

Which is a good segue to this excellent roundup of real-world graphic agitation by Josh MacPhee, Street Art and Social Movements in Paris in May 1968, Nicaragua in the late 1970s, South Africa in the early 1980s, and finally Argentina from 2001-04.

>  30 July 2009 | LINK | Filed in ,

Mapping Power

An article I wrote is out now in the Design Issues column of the May/June 2009 Communication Arts. It draws on the material I presented at Conflux in September 2008.

Mapping Power

Using design to get where we want to go

What is power? It’s an abstract dynamic, an engine behind the visible world. Power can be found in relationships, in the flow of resources or information, in signs, symbols and ideas or built into the environment. There’s no doubt that visual media has the power to influence an audience, but visual media can also be used to visualize power itself. Visualizing power is a way of interpreting and understanding it. And this understanding can become a basis for challenging it. Design can be used to describe and locate power, to pressure those who hold power, and ultimately to facilitate and generate power by bringing people together.

Continue reading "Mapping Power" »

>  2 June 2009 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,