19 Feb Jakob Strand: A Braver new Everyday: From Designer to “Social Change Agent”
The economic, environmental, societal, biological, political and scientific models which for the past 150 years we have relied upon so heavily to provide structure to our daily lives are increasingly becoming inadequate to deal with the unpredictability and turbulence we are facing in a post-cataclysmic environment. The economic downturn, WikiLeaks, the political unrest in the Middle East and environmental disturbances we are witnessing around the world are all examples of turbulent times which are only likely to increase in frequency. Rather than being an occasional occurrence every ten years, they will represent normality, redefining the fundamentals of our new existence.
A significant shift from a static and rigid system to a more fluid and flexible one is needed in order to fully embrace and thrive as a society in an increasingly disruptive environment. The progression of events in the future will occur in leaps rather than incremental steps and as a direct result the mindset of the future designer will have to consider more widespread and holistic approaches rather than just looking at isolated problems followed by temporary solutions.
Designers will increasingly have to become reformists, revolutionists and the dreamgineers of tomorrow inventing completely new frameworks and models for the changed world in which we live. Toronto’s ‘Institute Without Boundaries’ are spearheading this change in educating what they call ‘social change agents’—a combination of artist, inventors, mechanics, and objective visionary strategists.
As the social scientist and scholar Buckminster Fuller once put it “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
The designers of tomorrow will have to move beyond simple and reactionary innovations like the much celebrated LifeStraw and Ideo’s Aquaduct bike (which focus on water purification within the third world but do not address the root cause issue) and will need to become braver and more reformist in their outlook. When an existing system ceases to cope, patching and repairing problems at a micro level becomes ineffective, or at least indifferent, and more macro level solutions are needed.
Jack Dorsey the inventor of Twitter and more recently the founder of the free credit card payment method for Smart phones, Square, is the archetype of a dreamgineer or ‘social change agent’. Not only does he provide new and convenient services, but he is completely changing the fundamental systems in a way not previously considered possible. Square will potentially, like Twitter did for the way we communicate, change the way we trade and make transactions in the future. His brief is simple: to make platforms where the individual becomes empowered and through this empowerment to make it possible for the public to bypass existing models.
What we are currently witnessing is a shift towards an anarconomy (anarchistic economy) seeing a more people-powered and socially-driven society with more profound bottom up change systems. Big fundamental system changes are no longer reserved to Governments, NGOs or large scale co-operations, but with current digital technologies even a small group of people with very little funds and a bit of spare time can achieve on an epic scale.
Clay Shirky calls this the ‘cognitive surplus’, and in his TED Talk he argues that the combination between people’s general generosity and an estimated one trillion hours worth of global free time every year will change the way projects come together. He considers that people weren’t born either capitalist or consumer, but ultimately weren’t offered an alternative up until now. Inherently we like to share, participate and create for the greater good and not just for profit alone.
Take this one step further and imagine a modern society for which monetary exchanges and regulated import and export models become obsolete. A utopia maybe, but not that unrealistic either if you consider current tendencies and the general public attitude towards existing capitalistic growth models. Increasingly people are celebrating a slower or even a no-growth alternative, looking at a more social or non-monetary exchange systems.
The breakdown of systems that we are currently experiencing will therefore be likely to give way to new and more intelligent ‘life forms’ and models. In other words we are revisiting old ideals in terms of community, social values and a more local sense of governance, and by combining this with the latest digital technology and its advances, designers are today offered an amazing opportunity to revolutionise the world as we know it, and to create a new and much braver everyday which will drive mindsets towards both a leaner and possibly more liveable way of life. More at Hiatus’ book.