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Unpleasant Design

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... Instead, I am going to discuss the particular instances of defensive designs and what arguments might be for and against these. 3 There have been discussions in the media, as we can see in endnote ii and in the text below, and some academic discussions on the topic, such as in the book Unpleasant Design (Savicic and Savic 2013; see also Davis 1990;Howell 2001;Mitchell 2003;Petty 2016). However, even though authors take different stances on the issue, they do not discuss it in a systematic fashion by presenting and examining different normative arguments to determine whether they are viable. ...
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p>For many years, some urban architecture has aimed to exclude unwanted groups of people from some locations. This type of architecture is called “defensive” or “hostile” architecture and includes benches that cannot be slept on, spikes in the ground that cannot be stood on, and pieces of metal that hinder one’s ability to skateboard. These defensive measures have sparked public outrage, with many thinking such measures lead to suffering, are disrespectful, and violate people’s rights. In this paper, it is argued that these views are difficult to defend and that much more empirical research on the topic is needed. </p
... -Chris Argyris and Donald Schön, 1974, p.28. [1] Much of what we see in the exhibits curated for DESIGN AND VIOLENCE is a kind of frustration on the part of the designers, or those who brief them -a frustration that the world is not how they want it to be, or It is about encoding not just rules, not just law, but also retribution, into the environment: an architecture of control, to use Larry Lessig's term [2] . Those on the receiving end may experience it as 'unpleasant design', as Gordan Savičic ´ and Selena Savic ´ somewhat politely describe it in their wonderful study [3] , but the unpleasantness is a by-product of the process of alignment. Reading intentions into the objects, as co-curator Ralph Borland suggests in his introduction to the exhibition [4] , the designers' goals seem to be discipline, efficiency, compliance; emotion does not enter into it unless as a useful means for achieving the end. ...
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Much of what we see in the exhibits curated for DESIGN AND VIOLENCE is a kind of frustration on the part of the designers, or those who brief them — a frustration that the world is not how they want it to be, or more specifically, people do not act how they ‘should’ do.
... Perhaps because of design's general lack of visibility within academic political science discourse, the ethics and politics of designers' power in influencing public behaviour have not been examined in the depth that might be expected. Although critiques have been outlined (by designers) of other designers' work around behaviour, particularly examinations of some of the 'darker' areas (Savičić and Savić, 2013;Nodder, 2013; see also http://darkpatterns.org), there has been little attention paid so far to the ethics and political dimensions of 'behaviour' in a design futures context, particularly questioning the role that designers may play as instruments of other interests, for example in creating the visualizations and scenarios which are used to promote certain visions of future public behaviour. ...
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Design and sustainability are enmeshed. Many visions of a sustainable future assume large-scale changes in human behaviour, in tandem with scientific advances. A major component of this is design which relates to people’s actions: the design of products, services, environments and systems plays an important role in affecting what people do, now and in the future. This has become known, in recent years, as design for behaviour change, behavioural design, or in the case of specific focus on sustainability, design for sustainable behaviour. However, planning anything around human action is bound up with assumptions and – in the case of much work around design for behaviour change – determinism. Design which adopts a singular, linear vision of the future, and future human behaviour, does not deal well with the complexities of humanity, culture and society. How can we ‘plan’ for sustainability while embracing this complexity? Is it possible to use speculation and reflection to think through some of the potential consequences and side effects? In this chapter, we introduce questions that designers interested in futures, sustainability and people’s actions can use to explore speculative approaches to future human behaviour.
... Their actions sometimes evolves and becomes fine art, where Banksy is a well known example of interventions in the public space [2]. The need of interventions and redesign in public space can also be argued as a reaction to unpleasant design, where the blue light in public toilets or public bench where it is impossible to lay down (also named anti-homeless) are some examples [3]. Even though youth's explorative efforts sometimes may be perceived as provocations, using a designerly perspective when understanding the way they wish to communicate in public urban space, may give new insight. ...
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The public space is often offset for young people, where bold and complex routines usually may result in more or less functional solutions, sometimes even in unpleasant design. More than ever the future depends on the engagement of youth in the public arena, and as a counterweight to unpleasant design, youth creativity may have in some case an extremely powerful effect in urban environments. On the other hand, it is questionable how their surroundings are prepared and willing to learn and absorb their inputs. The concept of divergent and convergent thinking is used as a viable framework to address and understand youth creativity in public spaces. Using data gathered over several years from a group of skaters, the paper gives new insight in how they learn, create and share new knowledge and how they envision the possibility to design and change their surroundings. Finally, this paper argues for using a designerly supported framework to enhance youth's creativity and design in public spaces, based on collaboration and co-creation across technology, space and grounded on their creative mindset.
... From this point of view, urban space is "public" not only in the sense of being publicly accessible, but also of being forcedly shared by different social actors. On the other hand, urban space is conceived and designed to organize practices, to host some activities instead of others, to rule out unwanted behavior, with cases of "hostile architecture" or of "unpleasant design" (Savičić and Savić, 2013) being just the most evident and controversial examples. Media play an increasingly relevant role in this relationship , urging Urban Media Studies to a systematic rethinking of their methodological frameworks. ...
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Within Urban Media Studies, current research on media practices in urban space is by and large informed by a phenomenological conceptualization of space directly derived from traditional audience studies of the 1990s. This conceptualization has as its linchpin the distinction between space as abstract location, and place as space endowed with symbolic meanings and affections through practices of place-making. This approach has the merit of going beyond deterministic hypotheses of media-related placelessness and clarifying how specific media-related practices can contribute to fostering people’s attachment to places and to endowing them with symbolic meanings. Yet, as shown through a discussion of an original case study on “captive audience positions” (situations in which we are somehow forcedly put in the position “to audience” a media spectacle), this conceptualization seems less adequate to addressing the relationship mutually shaping space and practices enacted in urban space, whether media-related or not. These limitations could be overcome by extending the phenomenological conceptualization of space into a fully fledged relational one.
... -the control of one's behaviour, which can be made through the design of objects, urban furniture and environments, thus preventing people from acting in undesired ways (sometimes, actually, resulting in a very "unpleasant design" 5 , just like, for instance, is elaborated by Savić and Savićić (Savićić & Savić, 2013)); -pre-defined and "convenient" ambiences created for a specific place. ...
Article
In analyzing oppressive systems like racism, social theorists have articulated accounts of the dynamic interaction and mutual dependence between psychological components, such as individuals’ patterns of thought and action, and social components, such as formal institutions and informal interactions. We argue for the further inclusion of physical components, such as material artifacts and spatial environments. Drawing on socially situated and ecologically embedded approaches in the cognitive sciences, we argue that physical components of racism are not only shaped by, but also shape psychological and social components of racism. Indeed, while our initial focus is on racism and racist things, we contend that our framework is also applicable to other oppressive systems, including sexism, classism, and ableism. This is because racist things are part of a broader class of oppressive things, which are material artifacts and spatial environments that are in congruence with an oppressive system.
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