Designing Systems

Beyond Things: Designing More-Than-Human Systems

In the midst of multiple collective shocks, involuntary realizations and painful learnings over the past years, calls for more resilient ways to build responsible planetary systems are all over our timelines and coffee tables.

But as promising as these developments toward „More-Than-Human-Centered“ design practices might seem – we have some questions: Like, how do you design a system that you’re part of yourself? One that is both digital and analog, human and non-human, intimate and public at the same time? One that truly bridges the boundaries between personal agendas and collective interests? And while designing it, how do you account for all the big and small questions that you encounter along the way? The planetary challenges we’re facing, and the human ones – from climate change to community struggles, from digital capitalism to personal budgets, from structural inequalities to our very own blindspots?

In short: How can we – as designers, activists, practitioners, citizens – move beyond the many problematic paradigms that got us here and shape a planet that is truly created for and with all systems involved?

Designing a start.

Those are big questions. So for our session at ThingsCon, we’re breaking them down into three smaller ones:

  1. What do terms like sovereignty, autonomy, or intention mean in an abundantly interdependent world? Do they still make sense?
  2. What does it mean to move from ego to eco in design work? What new tools, methods, and questions follow from this shift? What new (or old?) products or services should we think of?
  3. How big is big enough? How and when should we account for the bigger picture, the systemic inequalities, the pre-existing conditions, the problematic histories of our work and roles? And how can we ensure create tangible results in our work and not lose sight of those we d a way forward that is actionable and understandable for those institutions that are indispensable in moving ahead.  

We’re inviting everyone to share their stories, their suggestions, their questions. The goal is to build a narrative map, a collective deep dive into theory and experience, acting and creating. We’ll start with a brief introduction on our take on the present and future of systemic design – including some lessons drawn from eight years of ThingsCon. After that we’ll have a structured and co-creative discourse around some of the questions we’ll bring with us. We’ll close with a shared outlook on a desirable future of building connected and responsible systems after years of crises.

Simon Höher

Simon co-leads the Hybrid City Lab, the public design unit of Berlin-based innovation firm zero360.

For over ten years he has been working with public, private and civil society organizations to learn about ways to co-create their future, as a founder, coach, and strategic consultant. In his work he explores systemic concepts of public and urban design, regenerative transformation design, and tech and data ethics. Recent examples include contributions on systemic inequalities in urban design (NOW YOU KNOW, London, 2021), on systemic design principles in the development of public agile infrastructure (Fraunhofer ÖFIT, November 2021), and on guardrails of an future-proof provision of planetary public services in the context of ecological and digital transformation (IZT, Potsdam, February 2022).

Andrea Krajewski

Prof Andrea Krajewski (@krajewski) is an industrial designer, speaker and blogger. Since 25 years she is fascinated by the changing role of design in innovation processes. In 1994 she co-founded 360° – a design agency with an interdisciplinary approach, designing products at the border of digital and analogue media. In 2002 she was appointed as a professor for the Design of Interactive Media Systems at the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt. Here she established the interdisciplinary study course Interactive Media Design the UX-Lab and the THINGS-Lab – the current centres of her research. The contact to the ThingsCon-Team for her was like love at first sight.

She is a founding member of ThingsCon e.V. and hosts the ThingsCon Salon Darmstadt