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The Richness of Designing for Eco-Social Change: Creative Practice, Transformative Futures and Living within Limits

Published onJun 21, 2022
The Richness of Designing for Eco-Social Change: Creative Practice, Transformative Futures and Living within Limits
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ABSTRACT

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the influential Club of Rome report Limits to Growth, which used computer modelling to show that, on a finite planet, current human resource use cannot ultimately be sustained. In this paper we use the anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on the framing of limits in HCI. Following recent work in design and social science, we ask whether the idea of limits is an effective way to imagine, prompt and manage cultural change in participatory, sustainable HCI. Drawing from our experiences investigating participatory creative practice in the CreaTures project, we suggest that limits-led framings could be usefully held in tension with ideas of abundance. As researchers and practitioners of sustainable design, our job is often asking others to use less – whether that involves consuming fewer materials, less energy; or indeed even ‘un-making’ particular practices. We argue that directive change can be reconceptualised as ‘eco-social’ transformation: a fusion of care-infused ecological and social sensibilities to create existential change that would impact lifestyle and political choices (and technology use), turning to potentially abundant human resources of imagination, reflection and solidarity. We offer the example of The Hologram, a feminist economist healthcare art project situated online, to illustrate this potential.

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