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From anthropocentric design to ecospheric design: Questioning design epicentre

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This paper proposes a change of epicentre in design and product-service development areas. Reality is showing us that human life is unsustainable and that we are not aware of the total dependency of the Earth wellbeing and its limited resources, and therefore the authors believe that there is no other way than changing paradigm. The document introduces the hegemonic paradigm, the anthropocentric paradigm, pointing out afterwards approaches that move towards a different paradigm and their limits. Finally, it introduces the basic concepts and ethics of ecospheric design.
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DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 29
INTERNATIONAL DESIGN CONFERENCE - DESIGN 2010
Dubrovnik - Croatia, May 17 - 20, 2010.
FROM ANTHROPOCENTRIC DESIGN TO
ECOSPHERIC DESIGN: QUESTIONING DESIGN
EPICENTRE
G. G. Acosta and C. R. Romeva
Keywords: anthropocentric design, ecospheric design, design
paradigm
1. Introduction
It may appear a radical or contradictory posture to proposing a change of epicentre for professionals of
design and product-service development areas, as they assume human beings and human needs as the
centre of their doing, and therefore, they live and coexist under an anthropocentric design paradigm.
However, from a deep ethical convincement, where reality is showing us that human life is
unsustainable and that we are not aware of the total dependency of the Earth wellbeing and its limited
resources, we believe that there is no other way than changing epicentre.
2. The hegemonic paradigm
During the XIX century there was no threatening signal for an anthropocentric view: conquering
nature and finishing with the wild world was a common purpose of human civilisation. Since
industrial revolution two very important concepts could converge: on the one hand, technology and its
advances dynamised by science, inventions and innovations, which were oriented basically to offer a
better quality life and more human wellbeing. On the other hand, economical science development
established as a normal condition a financial structure where we all are depending on money a the core
axis in order to reach wellbeing delivered by technology. However, this couple technology-economy,
under a capitalistic or socialistic political structure has not solved with equity life quality and human
wellbeing. On the contrary, financial economy is functioning as the core theme of everything, it has
the control of technological development and it has subjugated it in order to exploit values and
invented needs under a dream of a permanent and sustainable growth and well being ad infinitum.
Financial economies slavery is such today, that world paralyses depending on the news of economical
crisis of developed countries.
The interdependence, or better said, the dependence and globalisation can lead to a world economic
disaster, as the incoherence of creating a Bad Bank, a financial institution created to hold
nonperforming assets owned by a state guaranteed bank, unsustainable in the long term, that buys
toxic products with public money (debts and real estates that slow dynamic and trust and that worth
nothing) in order to dinamise stock market. Of course, the immediate answer has been positive and
there have emerge other strategies, as the ones of countries that subsidise the buying of cars with
public money. In the long term, to run an economy like this is unsustainable.
In line with this, all technologies have been developed under the ideal of human growth and wellbeing,
and basic and applied sciences have fed the technological development enslaved to the capitalistic
growth proposal. Of course, being design an actor of products, processes and services technological
boost, it has based its development on this idea of human wellbeing i.e. the concept of needs.
30 DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
However, the basic problem is that the heritage concept of human wellbeing has been manipulated by
an ethics that replaced the coexistence with the environment and associated it as synonym of consume
vision and consumer needs. In other words, it has come to the nonsense of believing in consumption
and consumption theories as the obvious and logic way of solving our wellbeing as a specie. This is
the ideological core of the hegemonic paradigm, an anthropocentric development in a growing race
towards an idea of a feasible utopia, where wellbeing and human development will be achieved as
long as more and more products are designed and consumed, and as long as our technological arsenal
is renewed in less time. This way, the race for product development has been undertaken based on the
notion of innovation based on the market and endless energetic resources availability. A greed for
novelty and differentiation has been stimulated.
In line with this, in the anthropocentric vision that characterises our days, human being is the referent,
where its nature and wellbeing are the judge elements and therefore, its axiological structure and ethics
follow the next premise: world organisation as a complex whole, depend on human needs, and
therefore, all other beings and nature itself are judged and valued in line with human nature, and this
means that judgements and values about human being are over everything else. However, we should
not forget that, even being the rational specie and therefore the dominant one, our specie is just one
specie from about 50 millions of earth species, where the most of them are unicellular and insects.
Certainly, the anthropocentric design has been up to the moment consistent with the exposed premise,
though some societies of developed countries are entering a post - consumer stage [Lloveras 2009].
With this premise all the needs have been classified and stratified depending on the demand, the
acquisitive capacity and the competition for the differentiation. Therefore, according to the client
values and his/her economic purchasing capacity, he/she will be able to find mobile telephones from
ten Euros, up to ten thousand Euros, just as an example.
Now then, if he or she wishes total exclusivity and can pay for it, he or she will be able to buy a
mobile telephone in white gold with diamonds valued for a million dollars. In this enormous range
that accentuates inequity, although there may appear the purpose of offering major technological
services, the arguments for mobile telephones of ten thousand Euros or of a million dollars are
'exclusivity'. Exclusivity is sustained in the material used (titanium, gold and diamonds) to suggest that
he or she possesses an exclusive and inimitable jewel. But the functional service of communicating
and the technological base for it are practically equal. Now it is needed to establish other ideas on the
questions to the paradigm of anthropocentric development. From design field, let's see which ways or
alternatives have been given opposite to the previous situation.
3. Moving towards a different paradigm
3.1 Some historical milestones
In the field of the education in product design, it is possible to take as a referent of attempt of
paradigmatic break the School of Ulm, more exactly Die Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm of the 50s
[Cantz 2003]. Other authors have established a strong conceptual influence [Betts 1998; Margolin
1988]. The confluence of artists, scientists and philosophers was from its beginnings the space for a
debate in depth and a question of the social function of design. On the one hand, a strengthened model
to give continuity to the modernism interrupted in the Second World War was set out. Through a
programme of technical education, it wanted to support the reconstruction of West Germany of post-
war period, finding a place for the country on the world market. But on the other hand, a vision of a
new role of human needs as a civil responsibility removed from the banalities or the hedonism of the
individual, typical of the increasing consumerism of post-war period, was discussed. This debate of
both, students and teachers, was one of the reasons of its closing in the year 1968.
In spite of the influence of the School of Ulm in Latin-American design schools and in positions
towards the notion of development of not consumer products, the ideas were kept and still are kept
isolated. The most identifiable exception was the work developed in the design of capital goods in
Chile during the frustrated government of Salvador Allende in the 70s [Bonsiepe 1985]. Nowadays,
trends like Open Source Software, inspired by Ulm [May 2006], and other streams that come together
to the development of "Free Software" have taken force.
DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 31
In the same line of thought against consumerism, the multidisciplinary convergence of current design
is stimulant. Science based approach and rationalism are changing slowly to looking for efficiency of
resources, function - form - aesthetics relevance, open technological development and cooperated
knowledge management and development. This happens even in a radical way, as processes of open
innovation, without patents or paying author's copyright. But all this is staying in the academic area
and in some circles called of "civil resistance or disobedience".
About the 80s, there is a referent called Green Design [Papanek 1995], with a strong intention of break
and questioning of the concept of need, aroused from a vision of the consumer capitalism.
Already from the beginning of the 70s in Design for the Real World, Papanek was marking a polemic
approach, speaking about the design for 'real' needs. With the notion of ‘real needs’, it is assumed that,
on its contrary, there are ‘invented needs’ or ‘created needs’ and therefore not ‘real’ needs. In other
words, unnecessary needs are those that market has boosted, supported by slogans like “what are you
waiting for to get it!, take advantage of this special offer!, be the first in having and enjoying it!”. Till
today, this is the current speech of marketing, sales and advertising, boosting consumption and making
this way economy ‘sustainable’.
3.2 Social design
More recently, Silvia and Victor Margolin [Margolin and Margolin 2002] have theorised around social
design or, better said, around a social model of design. They argue that designs purpose for the market
is creating products for selling, while social designs purpose should be the fulfilment of human needs.
The fundamental idea is to return to the understanding of human basic needs, over a model of the
market who insists on the vision of a consuming user for whom it is necessary to create needs
constantly.
It is important to mention that in the beginnings, the conceptual base of social and ecological design
models was oriented to technological transfer (exo-technology) with a philanthropic spirit, more than a
search for a cooperated construction from a vernacular technology (endo-technology). In line with
this, a discussion around the different technological streams must be carried out, for example the
substitution of the concept ‘technological transfer’ by the concept ‘technological adoption’ [Javi
2006]. Technological adoption includes the ‘actor oriented perspective’ identified as the target person,
in a specific context and with a cooperated development from the beginning of the project.
Social design has been appropriate and has gotten good results in development contexts as
interdisciplinary work with occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists and healthcare
professionals. As part of teams working with architects and healthcare professionals, they have been
working applying universal design principles in social spaces as elderly homes or hospitals for
example. It has been emphasised on the social responsibility of designers in order to direct their efforts
on product development, working interdisciplinary with healthcare professionals, educators, etc.
Nowadays a designer agenda must have a social effect with a different consume impact. Design work
cannot be just to fill display cabinets and consume or luxury products catalogues.
But social design still does not solve the gap and imbalance in depth, as for example the imbalance
between the exploitation and consumption of nourishing and energetic resources. Design with a social
approach has become practically a moral palliative facing inequality and socio-economical
underdevelopment. This happens because unfortunately the social model confronts a very solid and
traditional market model, supported by economical sciences and politics. The social model of design is
looking forward to recover and redefine the notion of ‘fulfilling human needs’, which has been
manipulated, reduced and associated in economical sciences to ‘market consumption needs’. It is time
to take up again social sciences concept of human needs for surviving with life quality as a core
concept from a physiological, psychological, emotional and sociological perspective, moving away
from a consumer and economical vision. In any case, it must be taken into account that human needs
are still conceived in an anthropocentric paradigm, rescued however from consumerism. This way it is
easier to give the next step towards a non anthropocentric paradigm.
Victor Margolin makes a call towards a social design model based on five capital types: human
capital, social capital, financial capital, institutional capital and physical capital. This way he makes
from design practice a concrete way for contributing on the reduction of technological gaps within
32 DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
societies or excluded groups. He proposes to build a new social agenda for design and product
development professionals for living, education and health. His development fields and application
can lead us to the design of more supportive and fair social and governmental structures as: design for
education and educational environments, design for health, design for encouraging autonomy of
marginal communities or even of vulnerable organisations, collectives, cooperatives and small
companies. In general, we are talking about design oriented towards social and communal wellbeing; a
design centred on current inequality problems, creativity oriented to support civil societies equity and
to empower people towards their needs in nourishment, health and education.
It is clear that social design is necessary, because if current consume dynamic continues, immersed on
the same values structure, we all are going to be peripheral, assisted and vulnerable. We all are ‘the
people’ living based on the consumer model, developed countries and those countries that try to
develop following the same model. Worthy and contradictory, the purpose of the social design model
can be generalized. On the one hand, this statement is based on the damage of environmental
conditions, droughts, flooding, pollution and weather change, food shortage and bad distribution. On
the other hand, the accelerated used of non renewable energies, among other problems, will finish
turning the most of Earth population into more peripheral, less assisted and vulnerable populations.
Therefore, to design practice model based on the five capital types [Margolin 2007], we have to
enhance his conceptual statement adding the idea of ‘energetic capital’, as it cannot be thought as
indefinable available. Nowadays energetic capital is absolutely important, because it is one of the
factors that allows to put into context the components of a design situation in absolute terms of
feasibility. If there is no energetic availability in a specific context, a design and all it consequent
products, will not be able to be used.
Components
of a design
situation
Human
Capital
Social
capital
Financial
capital
Institutional
capital
Physical
capital
Energetic
capital
Figure 1. Components of a design situation. Based on: Margolin, Call for Social Design, 2007
3.3 Sustainable design
Here has been considered social design, but today there are many others design approaches: design for
experience, responsible design, interaction design, universal design, inclusive design, user centred
design, ecodesign, clean design, design for environment, total design, etc. However, although the
pertinence of these approaches which rescue and discover human value over commercial value, all of
them follow in one or another way the hegemonic political and economical paradigm. This is a
paradigm where human being is the centre of everything and, convinced that he is the centred, he is
stimulated to be responsible and support economic and financial structure of consumerism. In line
with this, all these design approaches are necessary, especially the eco-environmental approach that
has evolved through three big phases [Madge 1997]: green design, which was part of the 80s
discussion about light and dark green consumers. After it, ‘ecological design’ in the 90s took some
concepts of deep ecology in order to redefine design purpose, thinking about rationalising materials
and processes handling. Finally came the idea of ‘sustainable design’, from global design and at the
same time sustainable, thinking about human and environmental interdependence.
The above approaches are necessary, because they approach to an holistic consciousness and
therefore, they move away from considering human being as the centre. However, they are not enough
DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 33
in the sense that human specie still does not recognise that, in order to survive on the Earth, we cannot
continue behaving as the Earth centre. Energetic resources are already in its zenith, Hubbert’s peak
theory will happen, shall it be in 2015 or not. It is a fact that in human civilisation scale is the
immediate scenario, because it is undeniable that oil and all fossil energies are finite resources.
The systemic-eco-environmental vision has allowed to recognize the mistakes of civilisations
development looking for conquering, dominating and exploiting nature [Owen 2005]. This is the first
mirror to admit consumerism and nature exploitation effects.
Induced
Problems
Population
Growth
Climate and weather
patterns are changing:
floods, storms, hurricanes
Drier or wetter.
More energy to be produce:
Greenhouse gas emisions
Food production pressured:
- Decreased arable land
-By 2050 = 62%
Population growth and megacities:
-Populations moving to the cities
-Word Urbanization
Mineral resource depletion (petroleum):
- Petroleum = 40% of all energy
Fresh Water Resources
Depletion:
- Resources of water diminishing
per capita.
Wild Fisheries decline:
- Greater pressure on global
fisheries
Ocean levels are rising:
- Polar melting is accelerating
Figure 2. Induced Problems. Adapted from: Owen, Ch. Growing the role of design, 2005
As mentioned above, the mirror shows that human needs fulfilment based on a market centre model
and a values system that justifies itself through the idea of progress, has lead us to an imbalance
between human specie and the rest of planetary nature. Here a new values structure is needed, a
behavioural ethics that harmonizes with the ecosphere, where all human beings belong to and from
which all depend in real and absolute terms. According to Earth Manifesto:
“A trusting attachment to the Ecosphere, an aesthetic empathy with surrounding Nature, a feeling of awe for the
miracle of the Living Earth and its mysterious harmonies, is humanity's largely unrecognized heritage.
Affectionately realized again, our connections with the natural world will begin to fill the gap in lives lived in the
industrialized world. Important ecological purposes that civilization and urbanization have obscured will re-
emerge. The goal is restoration of Earth's diversity and beauty, with our prodigal species once again a
cooperative, responsible, ethical member” [Mosquin & Rowe 2004]
In line with what is expressed on the manifesto, we can ask the central question about the hegemonic
design paradigm.
4. Should human being and his/her needs be design epicentre?
This question will demand us thinking carefully, but above all, it is an invitation for reconsidering
social and economical aspects of consumer behaviour adopted by the most of us. Essentially, it is an
invitation to think about a new way of design performance, taking into account everything about
design, a space where people are able to recognise themselves as symbiotic and interdependent with
the rest of planetarium species. This contrasts with the current situation, where we are acting as the
domineering specie that subjugates and exploits nature.
If we are conscious that we are a dependent part of the ecospheric Earth matrix, we will also be able to
identify the real generated problems and it will be possible to start real and deeply creative human acts
regarding to the built environment. This conscience of membership and ecospheric dependence must
invite us to think about some aspects for a new way of behaviour, like it will be explained in the
following lines.
34 DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Diversity and variety are being lost, and that includes human nature and its culture, because the idea of
globalisation has imposed and promoted a life style standard focused on a consumption society. The
idea that human being life’s quality depends on it has been sold. On the contrary, diversity and variety
of earthling species and human life styles acceptance is an ethical behaviour of tolerance that would
encourage the creative potential of Earth and would eliminate the egocentrism and the homocentrism.
As a partial result, human society has growth in inequality of possibilities and opportunities, and the
ideological, educative, social, cultural and economical structures connect people in productive and
reproductive dynamics of the consumerism model, which become the model to be followed.
Equity and the acceptance of the ideological, cultural, social, economical, technological and scientific
differences, should guide humanity to the motto: diversity with equality, eliminating the comparative
assessment that promotes models between domineering people and ruled people. Nevertheless, for
leaving this anthropocentric point of view, it is necessary to accept the opposite to Darwinism of
evolution by competition: co-creation and cooperation between the planetarium species for
coexistence. A more creative, harmonic and conscious of ecosphere human intelligence has to appear,
and this intelligence has to be organize in equity with the capacities, actions and vital rights of the rest
of planetarium species: equity between species, between humans and generations, like the “Radical
Simplicity” says [Merkel 2007].
The Earth must be understood as an alive being, from the ecospheric point of view which talks about
the Gaia postulate [Lovelock 1989]. It must be identified that, inside the earthling ecosphere, every
system, alive or not, coexists in a complex dynamic, being always close to the equilibrium or to the
catastrophes. Therefore, we cannot expect to solve human problems from a linear and deterministic
point of view. For example, problems of social, economical and energetic injustice are important and
we have to be faced, but they are the consequence of the lack of a solution for the debilitation of
ecosystems and the exploitation of resources from philosophic and anthropocentric actions. The fuel
fossils decline is not resolved just with biofuels, because “feeding” the gas tank will imply sooner or
later not feeding a hungry population, and this is not just unsustainable but lacks of ethic.
It is necessary to establish a complex and holistic view where we can recognise the human specie in a
responsible way, at the same level and right of acting of any other specie or unit, like parts of the
ecosphere. All this points unavoidable at a new perception as a specie, that being intelligent, should
achieve survival not by exploiting the land and perceiving it just like a simple resources supplier. That
is why it is fundamental to establish a new ethics for acting, a new human behavioural code, where we
can be recognised as a eco-dependent and interdependent specie and not as a domineering one. These
new ethical principles should be oriented towards the search of the dynamic equilibrium between use
and distribution of food, and towards a discouraging of consumption beyond the needs for surviving. It
must not be accepted ethically the economical imbalance of the existence of richness in few persons or
few countries without a value of real and probable use. In this sense, the wish of austere life styles,
with conscience of impact and with specific acts like many civil movements and non - governmental
organizations of today is needed.
4.1 Complexity as a possible alternative for changing design epicentre
Talking about a biospherical equilibrium compromises design to looking for theories that allow the
understanding of all living beings –including human beings- within a system with complex behaviour
near to or faraway from equilibrium. According to Morin (1997), complexus is something “that is
weaved together”. Complexity is a woven structure of events, actions, interactions, determinants,
contradictions and vicissitudes that represent the phenomenological world.
In this sense, complex theory, science of totality, or deterministic chaos [Gleick 1987; Morin 2007]
could be an option for decentralising and scaling the design approach, considering human beings fairly
with other biotic systems. In order to understand systemic behaviour from a complexity perspective, it
is necessary a systematic observation and a consistent reasoning. However, this is not enough: an
holistic understanding is needed, a coherent comprehensive whole that allows passing from order to
chaos and from chaos to order [Briggs and Peat 1990]. This new epistemology based on complexity
theory would not propose a new centre with a hierarchical organisation of design actions. Proposing a
new centre would be similar to Copernican revolution: to pass form a geocentric model to a
DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 35
heliocentric model [Martínez Miguelez 1993]. Changing from an anthropocentric design to an
ecospheric design must be understood following Hubbles’ thinking, a design approach with holistic
vision in a coherent whole without a centre. A holistic approach is meaningful, because it allows
understanding the systematic concatenation of a problem i.e. how a specific situation is being affect by
many causes. A complex approach can help to understand two basic issues: the systems’ dynamic
behaviour and its equilibrium degree [García Acosta 2002].
A comprehensive, complex and interdependent design is proposed, without denying Newtonian-
Cartesian paradigm, where it is possible to work in specific design and product development scenarios,
but at the same time, a design concept capable to overcome the reductionist, mechanical and
hierarchical vision founded on the idea of sustainable development and growing economies. The goal
is going further from antinomies of the parts in relationship with the whole (parts-whole) and of the
individuals in relationship with the whole (individuals-whole), replacing it with dialectic and dialogic
approach between design and ecosphere, built environment and Earth, Homo Faber and Gaia.
A ecospheric design compromises a new ethic, a human values review, even a psychological maturity
evaluation of the whole humanity against a trivial reality that assumes as opposites human being and
animals, or culture and nature. It is not possible to continue exalting men beyond animal [Morin
1994]. However, ecospheric design entails basically a decision and a new political global action,
probably with implications as depth ears, energy waste and fruitless efforts.
5. Conclusion
In short, the anthropocentric paradigm in design has deep and logic historical roots in the economical,
social and political structures that support and promote it. It has not been considered as one of the
consequences of humanity civilization process that assumes land and its media as resources that can be
exploited and dominated to get benefits for the human race as domineering specie. But the growth
paradox became unavoidable in the presence of nowadays reality of watching the limits and impacts in
the resources and in the environment, that puts not just other species at risk, but humanity survival.
An understanding of complex systems for assessing in a better way the effects of the human activities,
its social and ethical impact and the energetic demand of products manufacturing is needed. A
biospheric equilibrium should locate the human, environmental and energetic condition in the same
level. When searching a change of a epicentre for the design, it is not meant to resign to human
condition and its survival right. The aim is a change of conscience in order to recognize ourselves like
an eco-dependent specie of the conditions that Earth gives to life.
It is set out a change of design epicentre in order to recognise ourselves with such an intelligence that
we cannot show us like exploiters but like co-dependents of the continuity of life in earth, of our life as
a specie and the life of million of other species. A design that moves its view focussed on needs and
wishes of human specie to a design with the view focussed on earth. It should appear the space for
discussion and get ready to propose new principles as the result of deep thoughts, in order to be able
and guide a new design vision: a vision of ecospheric design.
Therefore the basic postulate of ‘ecospheric design’ does not set out to leave human dimension, but to
put it in a fair scale in relationship with Earth (the ecosphere). We cannot understand the ‘ecospheric
design’ just like a new denomination, a conceptual retouch or a paraphrase for the exposed ‘green
design’, ‘ecological design’ and ‘sustainable design’. What we should expect with the ‘ecospheric
design’ is to decentralize human being as unique actor, and the purpose of the project should be living
well on the environment (well-being), recognizing other actors (the rest of the species) in the project
of well-being in Earth (being well and living without being endangered species). In this sense, the
ecospheric design’ differs, in fact, it opposes to the paradigm that represents ‘sustainable design’, as
it shares the incompatibility mentioned by growth theory [Fournier 2008] that understands
development and sustainability as an oxymoron.
The understanding of development as growth ad infinitum connected only to GDP index must be
replaced by the decrease oriented to sustainability – as regulator, not in the negative meaning, where
other indexes operate, for example: life quality and well-being of the species (human is one of them)
and its relationship with energetic demand and consumption, which is required for quality and well-
being. If this school of thought is accepted, it cannot operate anymore with an anthropocentric or even
36 DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
biocentric view. Like it is mentioned in the Manifesto for the Earth, the ethical priority moves from
humanity (anthropocentric) and from any other alive being (biocentric) to Earth-home that includes
them (ecospheric Gaia). This way we avoid the risk of losing the biocentric equality proposed by deep
ecology years ago.
We need a design view, where the central aspect is paying attention to the acting inside a new
ecospheric ethics, where the focus is over four aspects: dynamic equilibrium, equity, complex co-
dependent view and holistic understanding.
However, for the hegemonic paradigm, this approach and other similar approaches that question the
ethical sense of continuing with consumerism as well-being and life quality ideas, are simply utopian
proposals, absurd thoughts or even threats, and they never will admit that they are arriving to a utopia
for human development, until we are able to see the reality regarding the irreversible energetic crisis
which is coming. If a new ethical view as point of reference arises, it is possible to live with new
social and cultural structures, only if they do not enslave humanity for work and ‘keep’ a life level
which is generating damages. But thinking about a change of economical, financial, ecological and
geographical structures is coming into force, a new theoretical-conceptual basis is emerging from
economy. [Martinez – Alier 2009].
In short, “ecospheric design” must be guide by the deep understanding and the maintenance of the
dynamic equilibrium. For example, design for food biodiversity and design with food biodiversity (in
context, well-balanced and equitable diet). It should work for the efficiency and efficacy of energies
used, redefined and resized not in the limitation of economic sciences, but understood in a complex
and holistic way, the use of the energies in dynamic equilibrium, instead of an exploiter like lately has
been happening.
Inside this framework, with a new ethics as guide, it is possible to think about and make coexist
vernacular technologies with edge technologies. Design can be a mediator of the scientific and
technological advances, without putting them to the service of nature exploitation and consumerism
stimulation.
It is about creating a technology governed by ecospheric conscience, a development that
shows and allows the coexistence of abilities and basic human capabilities, today relegated as
handmade curiosities or to historic museums of technology. It refers to the guiding of
ourselves quickly towards the renewable energies, and include a planetarium ethics of
nanotechnology and robotics.
It is about promoting a technology that respects the nomad and collectors practices at the same
time as located biotechnological developments.
It is about encouraging technologies which recognize and promote the simplest physical,
mechanical, chemicals and biological principles and over all more efficiency in terms of
energetic consumption.
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Gabriel García Acosta
Associated Professor
Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Ciudad Universitaria Edif. 303 of 316, Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: +57 1 316 5000 ext. 12636
Telefax: + 57 1 614 1168
Email: ggarciaa@unal.edu.co
38 DESIGN THEORY AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
... But these two elements don't bring to human wellbeing, on the contrary, the financial economy has the control of technology development under a capitalistic approach. However, the basic problem is that the heritage concept of human wellbeing has been manipulated and the coexistence with the environment is replaced with the meet of consumer needs and the consequent consume vision (Acosta, Romeva, 2010). User-centred design and human-centred design have contributed to this environmental degradation. ...
... "As Latour observes, for the first time, we live in an epoch in which our 'action modifies the very framework in which history is supposed to unfold', something that was unthinkable in the Holocene" (Menga, Davies, 2019). In order to change what reality is telling us, we need a multidisciplinary and holistic approach to change the design epicentre (Acosta, Romeva, 2010). ...
Article
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The collaboration of humans, nature and animals toward a post-anthropocentric design framework. Meeting challenges of designing services for the environment. Abstract We are living in the Anthropocene, in a world in which humans are at the center of everything. Design in based on human needs and desires but it is growing the awareness that human actions are becoming unsustainable for the planet. This paper is going to analyse Human Centred Design to focus on the problems and limits created by this design framework. It proposes then a shift towards a Post-anthropocentric framework that includes not only humans but also animals, plants and the environment. The term Post-humanism was born in 1992 as an philosophic movement. Posthumanist philosophy therefore focuses on the meaning of techne, ontopoiesis, relationships with other non-humans, with nature as a whole. Posthumanism considers technology as dialogue between human and the world. The relationship between humans and non-humans it reveals important in order to change the design thinking from an anthropocentric view to a post-anthropocentric one. The paper proposes at the end a new design framework based on a post-humanist paradigm for a possible sustainable future. Introduction We are living in the Anthropocene, an era in which humans and their actions are the main drivers of the environmental crisis. Humans are destroying their environment, they are breathing unhealthy air, significant glaciers are melting for the global warming and industries are polluting our seas with toxins. We are pushing the limits of Earth's biophysical system to maintain our living standards. Destroying the world in which we live brings consequences also for human wellbeing (Menga, Davies, 2019). Since the time of Descartes, animals were considered mindless beings that cannot interact with mindful beings like humans. So for Descartes, due to the fact that animals or plants
... Ecospheric design proposes a shift of epicentres in design, from one that operates on anthropocentric values to one that places the Earth and its ecosystems at the centre. This approach underlines the total dependency of humanity on the planet's wellbeing, fostering an awareness of Nature's ethics pivoting on concepts like dynamic equilibrium, equity, complex co-dependency and holistic understanding (Acosta & Romeva, 2010). ...
Preprint
What if design as a discipline and practice was informed by a nature-centered approach, as opposed to a human-centered one? What if it was more inclusive, interconnected with its environment, sustainable and place-based? We postulate that this is a highly important shift, considering that design is a mediator of our material and social realities.
... However, the human species can pass from being the dominating element to being in danger of extinction if we continue with the current socio-economic model (i.e. the exploitation of natural resources as a way of surviving, ignoring the negative impact on natural systems which ultimately affect human beings). This is why it is important to find solutions inspired by the natural world, deeply compatible with an ecospheric view (Acosta and Riba-Romeva 2010) and with the core principles stated in the Manifesto for Earth (Mosquin and Rowe 2004), recognising the codependence and cooperation (i.e. symbiosis) between the different natural resources as opposed to the idea of resource exploitation. ...
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In this paper, we analyse two approaches that attempt to address how a human factors and ergonomics (HFE) perspective can contribute to the sustainability of the human race. We outline the principles, purposes and fields of application of ergoecology and green ergonomics, and thereafter deal with their context of emergence, and the overlaps in purpose, and principles. Shared values are deduced and related to socio-technical principles for systems' design. Social responsibility and environmental/ecospheric responsibility are the leading threads of ergoecology and green ergonomics, giving rise to the values of: respect for human rights, respect for the Earth, respect for ethical decision-making, appreciation of complexity, respect for transparency and openness, and respect for diversity. We discuss the consequences of considering these values in HFE theory and practice.
Conference Paper
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The history of design shows countless examples in which design has caused harm on an individual, social, political, or ecological level-even things that are identified as nature, depending on the cultural and geographical context, have already been interfered with by design. All these actions are, of course, anthropocentric-because design is always an anthropocentric activity and practically no processes exist that seriously exclude humans as stakeholders (this problem is intensified by the fact that design is also dominated by a WEIRD-western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic-view that lacks the methods and vocabulary to understand needs and requirements in a global context). Established design processes can thus quickly cease to function since they cannot reflect all interests (between different people; and the "interest" of nature and its plant and animal representatives-whatever that may mean). So we need a post-eurocentric and then a post-anthropocentric understanding of design-and one that functions pluralistically and above all also future-oriented. Instead of using established processes to deal with interdependence, this tension between humans and nature formulates the need for new design processes and a serious design ethic.
Chapter
This chapter examines the impact of augmented reality in relation to translation. How can translation be augmented by technology? How is the translator empowered through partnerships with non-humans and what do these mean epistemologically? How can theories of translation be reframed to include reflections on the extant synergies between humans and non-humans? The discussion draws on theories and concepts related to human–computer interaction, digital business, and robotics. Given the novelty and contemporary nature of the subject, reference material has been drawn from recent online and industry sources. The argument is that augmentation is not a threat (cf. Davenport and Kirby, Harvard Business Review, 93(6), 58–65, 2015) to translators or translation, but a disruptive, innovative change that might allow for human–technology partnerships that generate new forms of knowledge and perception.
Article
This paper challenges the assumption that humans should naturally be given primacy over non-human actors in the design process. New technological capabilities are starting to give non-human actors (e.g. networked objects) decision-making ability, thereby allowing for an active form of agency. This move will only grow in sophistication in the future and has the potential to be profoundly disruptive to both the design process and wider society. Using Donald A. Norman’s fundamental characteristics of user-centred design, ideas informing the Internet of Things, and philosophies around New Materialism, this paper argues that the fundamental assumptions that underpin the act of designing need to be reassessed.
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This paper conceptualises a new multi-disciplinary field by establishing the elements of an ‘ergonomic system’ (human beings, physical space, and object/machine) and defining the term ‘surroundings’ (PESTE factors) while emphasising the ecological aspects of human activities. The definition of ergoecology is explained by an etymological analysis of the names of the contributing disciplines (ergonomics and ecology). The new multi-discipline combines and extends the scope of the two foundational disciplines using new principles, notions, and concepts, such as ‘built environment’, ‘surroundings’, ‘ergoecology’, ‘ecoefficiency’, and ‘ecoproductivity’. The aim of ergoecology is to provide tools for confronting twenty-first century challenges. In line with the sustainability movement, we believe in the importance of using ecologic and ergonomic perspectives (in their broadest sense) to develop action aimed towards environmental preservation and the development of sustainable products, processes, and service designs.
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Purpose – Whilst there is a growing recognition of environmental degradation, the policies of sustainable development or ecological modernisation offered by national governments and international institutions seem to do little more than “sustain the unsustainable”. By promising to reconcile growth with the environment, they fail to question the economic principle of endless growth that has caused environmental destruction in the first place. In this context, alternatives based on critiques of growth may offer more promising grounds. The aim of this paper is to explore how the degrowth movement that emerged in France over the last decade resonates with, and can contribute to, green politics. Design/methodology/approach – After locating the movement within environmental politics and providing a brief account of its development, the paper focuses on its core theme – escaping from the economy. Findings – Here it is argued that the movement's main emphasis is not merely on calling for less growth, consumption or production, but more fundamentally, in inviting one to shift and re-politicise the terms in which economic relations and identities are considered. This politicisation of the economy is discussed in terms of the movement's foregrounding of democracy and citizenship, and it is argued that the articulation of these two concepts may offer interesting points of departure for conceptualising and practising alternatives to consumer capitalism. Originality/value – The final part of the paper explores how the degrowth movement's stance on democracy and citizenship could help address two problematic issues within environmental politics: that of inclusion, and motivation
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1985 as an emeritus Professor. A geo-ecologist and environmental ethicist with a background in silviculture and terrain (landscape) ecology, Stan authored Forest Regions of Canada (1959), and Home Place: Essays on Ecology (NeWest Press, Edmonton, 1990; reissued 2002), as well as numerous articles, book chapters and reviews. Some of his articles on ecology and ethics are posted at www.ecospherics.net. He has served on provincial and federal environmental advisory councils.