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Designing ‘matters of concern’ (Latour ): A future design task ?

Authors:
  • Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Abstract

The French sociologist of science Bruno Latour argues that visualising ‘matters of concern’ is a pivotal design task for the future. In Part 1 of this chapter, the author subjects Latour’s argument to a critical examination in the context of design research fields. Part 2 relates Latour’s ‘matters of concern’ concept to the challenge not only of visualising but also of designing concerns. The main hypothesis developed here is that concerns can serve as attractors for organising and interpreting values, needs, issues, and frames. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the relationship of design to social change and the potential contribution to future transformation design that building on Latour’s perspective may make possible.
Wolfgang Jonas
Sarah Zerwas
Kristof von Anshelm (Eds.)
Trans formation
Design
Birkhäuser
Basel
Perspectives on a New Design Attitude
Unangemeldet
Heruntergeladen am | 08.03.16 08:41
Prof. Peter Friedrich Stephan (2015):
Designing ”matters of concern“ (Latour)
– a future design challenge?
Citation Information
ISBN (Online): 9783035606539
DOI (Chapter): 10.1515/9783035606539-016
DOI (Book): 10.1515/9783035606539
pages 202–226
202 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 203
DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR):
A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE?
Peter Friedrich Stephan
Abstract: The French sociologist of science Bruno Latour argues that visualising matters
of concern is a pivotal design task for the future. In Part 1 of this chapter, the author sub-
jects Latour’s argument to a critical examination in the context of design research elds.
Part 2 relates Latour’s ‘matters of concern’ concept to the challenge not only of visual-
ising but also of designing concerns. The main hypothesis developed here is that con-
cerns can serve as attractors for organising and interpreting values, needs, issues, and
frames. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the relationship of design to social
change and the potential contribution to future transformation design that building on
Latour’s perspective may make possible.
Part 1 Latour and Design
Latour’s Design Challenge
Matters of Fact vs. Matters of Concern
In his 2008 keynote address to the Design History Society entitled ‘A Cautious Pro-
metheus: A Few Steps to a Philosophy of Design’ (Latour 2008a), the French philos-
opher, anthropologist, and sociologist Bruno Latour notes that the design disci-
plines have developed methods such as blueprint drawings and
CAD
technology for
visualising objects as matters of fact. He went on to say that the challenge now is to
develop tools for visualising matters of concern:
Here is the question I wish to raise to designers: where are the visualization tools that al-
low the contradictory and controversial nature of matters of concern to be represented?
(Latour 2008a:13)
These new visualisation tools, according to Latour, should:
[…] provide for things, that is for matters of concern, a visual, publicly inspectable space
that is as remotely as rich, at least as easy to handle, and as codied as what has been
done over four centuries for objects conceived of as matters of fact. (13)
Latour derives this design challenge from his work in Science and Technology Stud-
ies (STS). He asserts that the new ways of drawing that originated in the Florentine
Renaissance (disegno) and the use of ‘immutable mobiles’ (7) contributed to the ex-
ceptionally powerful development of science and technology. In calling for new vis-
ualisation tools, Latour is projecting a similar effort for the future, obviously with
the expectation of similar groundbreaking results:
Why can the powerful visual vocabulary that has been devised in the past by generations
of artists, engineers, designers, philosophers, artisans and activists for matters of fact,
not be devised […] for matters of concern? (13)
The concept of matters of concern is embedded in the framework of Actor-Network
Theory (
ANT
), which is an attempt to elaborate a ‘symmetrical anthropology’ ( Latour
1991) and ‘second empiricism’ (Latour 2008a: 49). The distinction between matters
of fact and matters of concern is placed in a historical context that Latour postulates
as being ‘defined by a complete disconnect’ (2) between ‘two great narratives’ (2).
Modernist – matters of fact Design – matters of concern
‘emancipation, detachment, modernization,
progress and mastery’ (2)
‘founding, colonizing, establishing, breaking with
the past […] hubris, searching for absolute cer-
tainty, absolute beginnings, and radical
departures’(5)
‘material, real, objective and factual’ (6)
‘attachment, precaution, entanglement,
dependence and care’ (2)
‘antidote’ to everything in the left column (5)
‘social, symbolic, subjective, and lived’ (6)
Table 1: Latour’s ‘two great narratives’ (Latour 2008a: 2, 5, 6), table by PFS
Here is the setting in which Latour places his ideas on design:
For me, the word design is a little tracer whose expansion could prove the depth to which
we have stopped believing that we have been modern. In other words, the more we think
of ourselves as designers, the less we think of ourselves as modernizers. (2008a: 3)
He goes on to say that design’s task is to:
[…] ease modernism out of its historical dead end. (13)
To do so, he asserts:
New innovation will be absolutely necessary if we are to adequately represent the con-
icting natures of all the things that are to be designed. (13)
202 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 203
DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR):
A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE?
Peter Friedrich Stephan
Abstract: The French sociologist of science Bruno Latour argues that visualising matters
of concern is a pivotal design task for the future. In Part 1 of this chapter, the author sub-
jects Latour’s argument to a critical examination in the context of design research elds.
Part 2 relates Latour’s ‘matters of concern’ concept to the challenge not only of visual-
ising but also of designing concerns. The main hypothesis developed here is that con-
cerns can serve as attractors for organising and interpreting values, needs, issues, and
frames. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the relationship of design to social
change and the potential contribution to future transformation design that building on
Latour’s perspective may make possible.
Part 1 Latour and Design
Latour’s Design Challenge
Matters of Fact vs. Matters of Concern
In his 2008 keynote address to the Design History Society entitled ‘A Cautious Pro-
metheus: A Few Steps to a Philosophy of Design’ (Latour 2008a), the French philos-
opher, anthropologist, and sociologist Bruno Latour notes that the design disci-
plines have developed methods such as blueprint drawings and
CAD
technology for
visualising objects as matters of fact. He went on to say that the challenge now is to
develop tools for visualising matters of concern:
Here is the question I wish to raise to designers: where are the visualization tools that al-
low the contradictory and controversial nature of matters of concern to be represented?
(Latour 2008a:13)
These new visualisation tools, according to Latour, should:
[…] provide for things, that is for matters of concern, a visual, publicly inspectable space
that is as remotely as rich, at least as easy to handle, and as codied as what has been
done over four centuries for objects conceived of as matters of fact. (13)
Latour derives this design challenge from his work in Science and Technology Stud-
ies (STS). He asserts that the new ways of drawing that originated in the Florentine
Renaissance (disegno) and the use of ‘immutable mobiles’ (7) contributed to the ex-
ceptionally powerful development of science and technology. In calling for new vis-
ualisation tools, Latour is projecting a similar effort for the future, obviously with
the expectation of similar groundbreaking results:
Why can the powerful visual vocabulary that has been devised in the past by generations
of artists, engineers, designers, philosophers, artisans and activists for matters of fact,
not be devised […] for matters of concern? (13)
The concept of matters of concern is embedded in the framework of Actor-Network
Theory (
ANT
), which is an attempt to elaborate a ‘symmetrical anthropology’ ( Latour
1991) and ‘second empiricism’ (Latour 2008a: 49). The distinction between matters
of fact and matters of concern is placed in a historical context that Latour postulates
as being ‘defined by a complete disconnect’ (2) between ‘two great narratives’ (2).
Modernist – matters of fact Design – matters of concern
‘emancipation, detachment, modernization,
progress and mastery’ (2)
‘founding, colonizing, establishing, breaking with
the past […] hubris, searching for absolute cer-
tainty, absolute beginnings, and radical
departures’(5)
‘material, real, objective and factual’ (6)
‘attachment, precaution, entanglement,
dependence and care’ (2)
‘antidote’ to everything in the left column (5)
‘social, symbolic, subjective, and lived’ (6)
Table 1: Latour’s ‘two great narratives’ (Latour 2008a: 2, 5, 6), table by PFS
Here is the setting in which Latour places his ideas on design:
For me, the word design is a little tracer whose expansion could prove the depth to which
we have stopped believing that we have been modern. In other words, the more we think
of ourselves as designers, the less we think of ourselves as modernizers. (2008a: 3)
He goes on to say that design’s task is to:
[…] ease modernism out of its historical dead end. (13)
To do so, he asserts:
New innovation will be absolutely necessary if we are to adequately represent the con-
icting natures of all the things that are to be designed. (13)
204 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 205
Moreover, these innovations should reveal:
[…] the hidden practices of modernist innovations: objects have always been projects;
matters of fact have always been matters of concern. (13)
so that ultimately the question arises:
How can we draw together matters of concern so as to offer to political disputes an over-
view, or at least a view, of the difculties that will entangle us every time we must mod-
ify the practical details of our material existence? (12)
ANT and Design
A few design researchers expressed an interest in Latour and ANT early on, but a
broader acceptance has emerged only recently.
1
Ironically, these authors mostly
concentrated on the material aspects of ANT (‘Dingpolitik’, Latour 2008b), for ex-
ample the Scandinavian designers who link ANT’s perspective to their tradition of
participatory design.2 Projects that explicitly tackle Latour’s design challenge are
rare.3 One reason might be that, while the ANT analytical perspective offers a method
of observing and describing, it cannot be operationalised directly for the synthesis-
ing needs of design. To achieve this, Latour’s arguments must be placed in design’s
historico-systematic context.
There are good reasons why designers relate to ANT and Latour’s work, espe-
cially since the publication of his seminal article on ‘Visualization and Cognition:
Drawing Things Together’ (Latour 1986). These reasons include:
ambition to bridge the gap between ‘materialist’ and ‘men
tal-
ist’ explanations for the ‘specifics of modern scientific cul
ture’
(Latour 1986: 1);
a ‘passion for inscription devices’ (30)4 and ‘immutable mo-
biles’ (7);5
the re-evaluation of the functions of objects and their reas-
sessment as ‘things’/‘Dinge’ (6);
epistemological insights with regard to drawing and model-
ling (Latour and Yaneva 2008); and
the design of the theoretical framework and its ‘originality of
what is more a method to deploy the actor’s own world-build-
ing activities than an alternative social theory’ (Latour 1999:
15).6
Responses to Latour’s Design Challenge
A designer’s first response might be to point out projects that already successfully
render matters of concern, even if they do not directly relate to Latour or ANT, such
as the following:
Soccer matches (matters of concern for millions) are visual
ised
in excruciating detail (heat maps, 3D simulation, players’
scores, financial transactions, etc.).
Tweets are visualised in real time as an aid to understanding
the dynamics of social systems.
An architectural survey of the urban territory of Venice, Italy,
that mapped the different perspectives of the inner-city pop-
ulation, tourists, and illegal immigrants in an atlas of com-
prehensive graphics (migropolis.com and Scheppe 2009).
The emergent field of data journalism that is developing new, integrative forms of text
and images, dynamic presentation, and mediated interactions can provide the exper-
tise for structuring and visualising matters of concern and the debates they engender.
If examples like those cited above would not meet Latour’s expectations, the
question becomes how complex the visualisations he calls for can be made before
they begin to overtax cognitive capacities and so become counterproductive for
practical use. A map at a scale of 1:1 is clearly not feasible. Images may abound, but
what is lacking is structure, which calls for an effort to develop visual standards. The
1 Dissemination of Barack Obama’s tweet ‘Four more years’ by mfglabs7
204 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 205
Moreover, these innovations should reveal:
[…] the hidden practices of modernist innovations: objects have always been projects;
matters of fact have always been matters of concern. (13)
so that ultimately the question arises:
How can we draw together matters of concern so as to offer to political disputes an over-
view, or at least a view, of the difculties that will entangle us every time we must mod-
ify the practical details of our material existence? (12)
ANT and Design
A few design researchers expressed an interest in Latour and ANT early on, but a
broader acceptance has emerged only recently.
1
Ironically, these authors mostly
concentrated on the material aspects of ANT (‘Dingpolitik’, Latour 2008b), for ex-
ample the Scandinavian designers who link ANT’s perspective to their tradition of
participatory design.2 Projects that explicitly tackle Latour’s design challenge are
rare.3 One reason might be that, while the ANT analytical perspective offers a method
of observing and describing, it cannot be operationalised directly for the synthesis-
ing needs of design. To achieve this, Latour’s arguments must be placed in design’s
historico-systematic context.
There are good reasons why designers relate to ANT and Latour’s work, espe-
cially since the publication of his seminal article on ‘Visualization and Cognition:
Drawing Things Together’ (Latour 1986). These reasons include:
ambition to bridge the gap between ‘materialist’ and ‘men
tal-
ist’ explanations for the ‘specifics of modern scientific cul
ture’
(Latour 1986: 1);
a ‘passion for inscription devices’ (30)4 and ‘immutable mo-
biles’ (7);5
the re-evaluation of the functions of objects and their reas-
sessment as ‘things’/‘Dinge’ (6);
epistemological insights with regard to drawing and model-
ling (Latour and Yaneva 2008); and
the design of the theoretical framework and its ‘originality of
what is more a method to deploy the actor’s own world-build-
ing activities than an alternative social theory’ (Latour 1999:
15).6
Responses to Latour’s Design Challenge
A designer’s first response might be to point out projects that already successfully
render matters of concern, even if they do not directly relate to Latour or ANT, such
as the following:
Soccer matches (matters of concern for millions) are visual
ised
in excruciating detail (heat maps, 3D simulation, players’
scores, financial transactions, etc.).
Tweets are visualised in real time as an aid to understanding
the dynamics of social systems.
An architectural survey of the urban territory of Venice, Italy,
that mapped the different perspectives of the inner-city pop-
ulation, tourists, and illegal immigrants in an atlas of com-
prehensive graphics (migropolis.com and Scheppe 2009).
The emergent field of data journalism that is developing new, integrative forms of text
and images, dynamic presentation, and mediated interactions can provide the exper-
tise for structuring and visualising matters of concern and the debates they engender.
If examples like those cited above would not meet Latour’s expectations, the
question becomes how complex the visualisations he calls for can be made before
they begin to overtax cognitive capacities and so become counterproductive for
practical use. A map at a scale of 1:1 is clearly not feasible. Images may abound, but
what is lacking is structure, which calls for an effort to develop visual standards. The
1 Dissemination of Barack Obama’s tweet ‘Four more years’ by mfglabs7
206 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 207
2 Screenshot from the project ‘Mind 17’ that attempts to dene visual standards for the rhetoric of contro-
versial debate. (Concept: PFS; illustration: Meier)
effective new visualisations produced during the Florentine Renaissance cited by
Latour were based on standards, not idiosyncratic styles. The systematic founda-
tions that visualisation standards will need in the future are potentially found in the
medieval trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.8
The epistemological functions of rhetoric and of aesthetic aspects in research
processes to date have not been given their due. They were criticised as random and
affective, and as such they contradicted the myth of science as a completely rational
endeavour. However, recent enquiries into the material, social, and communicative
conditions of research processes (like Latour’s) showed that it is exactly the ambi-
guity of aesthetic artefacts such as pictures and metaphors that helps in
generating
ideas in the first place and thus is essential for research processes (Gross 1996 and
Nate 2009). Building on these insights, design can create new
visual standards
based on the epistemological functions of rhetoric and aesthetic aspects for use in
developing alternative formats for scientific research and communication.
As a second response, a designer inspired by Latour’s ‘matters of concern’ ap-
proach might interpret his lack of definition as an opportunity for generating new
perspectives for future design tasks. In the course of developing these perspectives,
a first step would be to give credit where due to achievements by designers who de-
signed matters of concern avant la lettre (Stephan 2001).
Matters of Concern in Design History
Notable Contributions
Notable projects in the history of design may be said to have already involved the
design of matters of concern, including:
Buckminster Fuller’s ‘World Game’ (1961), by displaying the
global flows of money and resources, showing complex rela-
tionships, and asking for alternatives in a tangible, interac
tive,
and playful way;
the film Powers of Ten (1968) by Charles and Ray Eames, by
showing the scalability of man’s environment and raising con-
cerns about humanity destined to live in an artificial world;
and
design groups from the 1960s and 1970s, among them Super-
studio, Archizoom, and Archigram, by using advanced vis-
ualis
ation and interactive formats (films, comic strips, and
per
for
mances, etc.) in developing and communicating com-
plex issues affecting design and society. Instead of working
on matters of fact, like ‘four walls with a roof’, it was standard
practice for these teams of architects to focus on matters of
concern, such as social issues like how to organise public and
private life when designing built environments.
Otto Neurath: Conception of Science, Political Aspiration, and Artistic Style
The only work Latour cites from design history is that of Otto Neurath (1882–1945),
who invented the Isotype symbolic language for visualising facts related to eco-
nomic and social issues (Neurath 1936).
When Otto Neurath devised his isotypes he was trying to do something which was the
equivalent of what had been attempted during the Renaissance, namely to link together
in a powerful synthesis a certain conception of science – logical positivism –, a certain
political aspiration – the socialism of Red Vienna – with a certain artistic style – Bau-
haus modernism. […] Neurath gives us the exact magnitude of the task to be completed.
(Latour 2008c: 49, 50)
Latour thus identifies the threefold basis for Neurath’s endeavour as an amalgam
of science, politics, and art. For the historical projects listed in section 2.1 above, a
Neurath-type, threefold basis might look like this:
206 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 207
2 Screenshot from the project ‘Mind 17’ that attempts to dene visual standards for the rhetoric of contro-
versial debate. (Concept: PFS; illustration: Meier)
effective new visualisations produced during the Florentine Renaissance cited by
Latour were based on standards, not idiosyncratic styles. The systematic founda-
tions that visualisation standards will need in the future are potentially found in the
medieval trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.8
The epistemological functions of rhetoric and of aesthetic aspects in research
processes to date have not been given their due. They were criticised as random and
affective, and as such they contradicted the myth of science as a completely rational
endeavour. However, recent enquiries into the material, social, and communicative
conditions of research processes (like Latour’s) showed that it is exactly the ambi-
guity of aesthetic artefacts such as pictures and metaphors that helps in
generating
ideas in the first place and thus is essential for research processes (Gross 1996 and
Nate 2009). Building on these insights, design can create new
visual standards
based on the epistemological functions of rhetoric and aesthetic aspects for use in
developing alternative formats for scientific research and communication.
As a second response, a designer inspired by Latour’s ‘matters of concern’ ap-
proach might interpret his lack of definition as an opportunity for generating new
perspectives for future design tasks. In the course of developing these perspectives,
a first step would be to give credit where due to achievements by designers who de-
signed matters of concern avant la lettre (Stephan 2001).
Matters of Concern in Design History
Notable Contributions
Notable projects in the history of design may be said to have already involved the
design of matters of concern, including:
Buckminster Fuller’s ‘World Game’ (1961), by displaying the
global flows of money and resources, showing complex rela-
tionships, and asking for alternatives in a tangible, interac
tive,
and playful way;
the film Powers of Ten (1968) by Charles and Ray Eames, by
showing the scalability of man’s environment and raising con-
cerns about humanity destined to live in an artificial world;
and
design groups from the 1960s and 1970s, among them Super-
studio, Archizoom, and Archigram, by using advanced vis-
ualis
ation and interactive formats (films, comic strips, and
per
for
mances, etc.) in developing and communicating com-
plex issues affecting design and society. Instead of working
on matters of fact, like ‘four walls with a roof’, it was standard
practice for these teams of architects to focus on matters of
concern, such as social issues like how to organise public and
private life when designing built environments.
Otto Neurath: Conception of Science, Political Aspiration, and Artistic Style
The only work Latour cites from design history is that of Otto Neurath (1882–1945),
who invented the Isotype symbolic language for visualising facts related to eco-
nomic and social issues (Neurath 1936).
When Otto Neurath devised his isotypes he was trying to do something which was the
equivalent of what had been attempted during the Renaissance, namely to link together
in a powerful synthesis a certain conception of science – logical positivism –, a certain
political aspiration – the socialism of Red Vienna – with a certain artistic style – Bau-
haus modernism. […] Neurath gives us the exact magnitude of the task to be completed.
(Latour 2008c: 49, 50)
Latour thus identifies the threefold basis for Neurath’s endeavour as an amalgam
of science, politics, and art. For the historical projects listed in section 2.1 above, a
Neurath-type, threefold basis might look like this:
208 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 209
Conception of science: early cybernetics, systems theory, plan-
ning theory.
Political aspiration: left-wing, emancipatory, ecological move-
ment.
Artistic style: avant-garde, multimedia, pop culture.
Confronting today’s challenges also calls on us to define
such
foundations. Accord-
ingly, we propose the following three
fold scheme:
Conception of science: a revised understanding of knowl
edge
work that acknowledges cognitive diversity as conceived of in
ANT, that postulates a ‘new production of knowledge’ (Gib-
bons et al. 1994), and that leads to the concept of a ‘Mode 2’
knowledge (Nowotny et al. 2001).
Political aspiration: insights into post-growth society; social
activism vs. neo-liberalism.
Artistic style: avant-garde, popular tech culture.
Matters of Concern as Common Ground for ANT, Argument Visualisation,
and Online Deliberation
While giving Latour credit for articulating the design challenge, we can critique his
omission of any contemporary field of professional activity that could potentially
contribute to meeting that challenge. In our view, the quest to invent new visualis-
ation tools will need to resort to distributed competencies, such as:
argument visualisation, which grew out of early cybernetics and
decision theory (Kirschner, Buckingham-Shum, and Carr 2003).
It has potential for formalising and displaying different perspec-
tives
on controversial aspects attaching to matters of concern
online deliberation, the research field that grew out of non-ac-
ademic citizen initiatives and today blends political and
com
munication sciences with design and technical expertise,
and focuses on organising debates using online tools (Davies
and Gangadharan 2009).
These fields are in active development and rely heavily on research and new tech
-
nology.9 Both have integrated design from the start but missed connecting with Ac-
tor-Network Theory. Since argument visualisation and online deliberation are es-
sential for addressing matters of concern in Latour’s sense, it seems appropriate to
combine them with ANT for purposes of future research.
A Closer Look at ‘Matters of Concern
Pursuing our dissection of Latour’s design challenge, we now need to ask: what
exactly are matters of concern? The concept is essential to Latour’s argument and
figures prominently in several of his publications.10 However, instead of yielding a
precise definition, these lengthy, partly redundant descriptions give rise to more
questions.11 For designers to willingly accept Latour’s design challenge, they will
first need to clarify the underlying terms. We now address this need by taking a look
at ‘scenography’, one of Latour’s key metaphors.
Scenography and ‘the whole machinery of a theatre
Even though the term is central to his argument, Latour does not deliver a clear defi-
nition of ‘matter of concern’. Instead, he offers a multitude of descriptions that are
not always coherent and sometimes contradictory, such as the following:
A matter of concern is what happens to a matter of fact when you add to it its whole sce-
nography, much like you would do by shifting your attention from the stage to the whole
machinery of a theatre. (Latour 2008c: 39)
Matters of fact were indisputable, obstinate, simply there; matters of concern are
disputable, and their obstinacy seems to be of an entirely different sort: they move, they
carry you away, and, yes, they, too, matter. (39)
Matters
of Concern
Socio-
technical Graphs
Visualisation
Materiality
Public Policy
Social Innovation
Immutable Mobiles
Interface
Human Centred Design
Argument
Visualisation
Assembly Hybrids
Actants
Research in
Discourse
Cultural Technology
– material turn
Science and Technology
Studies (STS)
Service Design
Participatory
Design
Cognitive Design
Transformation
Design
Political
Sciences
Chains of Action
Cognitive Governance
Actor-Network
Theory
Online
Deliberation
Design
3 ‘Matters of concern’
is the common core
formed by the over-
lapping competency
elds of Actor-Net-
work Theory, design,
and online delibera-
tion. (Diagram: PFS)
208 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 209
Conception of science: early cybernetics, systems theory, plan-
ning theory.
Political aspiration: left-wing, emancipatory, ecological move-
ment.
Artistic style: avant-garde, multimedia, pop culture.
Confronting today’s challenges also calls on us to define
such
foundations. Accord-
ingly, we propose the following three
fold scheme:
Conception of science: a revised understanding of knowl
edge
work that acknowledges cognitive diversity as conceived of in
ANT, that postulates a ‘new production of knowledge’ (Gib-
bons et al. 1994), and that leads to the concept of a ‘Mode 2’
knowledge (Nowotny et al. 2001).
Political aspiration: insights into post-growth society; social
activism vs. neo-liberalism.
Artistic style: avant-garde, popular tech culture.
Matters of Concern as Common Ground for ANT, Argument Visualisation,
and Online Deliberation
While giving Latour credit for articulating the design challenge, we can critique his
omission of any contemporary field of professional activity that could potentially
contribute to meeting that challenge. In our view, the quest to invent new visualis-
ation tools will need to resort to distributed competencies, such as:
argument visualisation, which grew out of early cybernetics and
decision theory (Kirschner, Buckingham-Shum, and Carr 2003).
It has potential for formalising and displaying different perspec-
tives
on controversial aspects attaching to matters of concern
online deliberation, the research field that grew out of non-ac-
ademic citizen initiatives and today blends political and
com
munication sciences with design and technical expertise,
and focuses on organising debates using online tools (Davies
and Gangadharan 2009).
These fields are in active development and rely heavily on research and new tech
-
nology.9 Both have integrated design from the start but missed connecting with Ac-
tor-Network Theory. Since argument visualisation and online deliberation are es-
sential for addressing matters of concern in Latour’s sense, it seems appropriate to
combine them with ANT for purposes of future research.
A Closer Look at ‘Matters of Concern
Pursuing our dissection of Latour’s design challenge, we now need to ask: what
exactly are matters of concern? The concept is essential to Latour’s argument and
figures prominently in several of his publications.10 However, instead of yielding a
precise definition, these lengthy, partly redundant descriptions give rise to more
questions.11 For designers to willingly accept Latour’s design challenge, they will
first need to clarify the underlying terms. We now address this need by taking a look
at ‘scenography’, one of Latour’s key metaphors.
Scenography and ‘the whole machinery of a theatre
Even though the term is central to his argument, Latour does not deliver a clear defi-
nition of ‘matter of concern’. Instead, he offers a multitude of descriptions that are
not always coherent and sometimes contradictory, such as the following:
A matter of concern is what happens to a matter of fact when you add to it its whole sce-
nography, much like you would do by shifting your attention from the stage to the whole
machinery of a theatre. (Latour 2008c: 39)
Matters of fact were indisputable, obstinate, simply there; matters of concern are
disputable, and their obstinacy seems to be of an entirely different sort: they move, they
carry you away, and, yes, they, too, matter. (39)
Matters
of Concern
Socio-
technical Graphs
Visualisation
Materiality
Public Policy
Social Innovation
Immutable Mobiles
Interface
Human Centred Design
Argument
Visualisation
Assembly Hybrids
Actants
Research in
Discourse
Cultural Technology
– material turn
Science and Technology
Studies (STS)
Service Design
Participatory
Design
Cognitive Design
Transformation
Design
Political
Sciences
Chains of Action
Cognitive Governance
Actor-Network
Theory
Online
Deliberation
Design
3 ‘Matters of concern’
is the common core
formed by the over-
lapping competency
elds of Actor-Net-
work Theory, design,
and online delibera-
tion. (Diagram: PFS)
210 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 211
There is a logical disconnect between these two quotes. Emotional involvement is
possible only as long as an audience believes that what it is watching is real, even if
it is just cardboard scenery, celluloid, or pixels. That is, the spectator either limits
his perception to the stage, believes in the play, and consequently is moved by it or
he shifts his attention, deconstructs the entire theatre machinery, and thus remains
unmoved. Matters of concern can only move an audience by drawing on emotions,
opinions, and attitudes that have been experienced by the audience previously, so
that it can react empathically.
The terms ‘scenography’ and ‘machinery of a theatre’ are used interchangea-
bly by Latour, but they really denote two different things. The scenography is what
the audience can see and hear on stage – props, lights, sounds – whereas the ma-
chinery of a theatre is everything – seen and unseen – that goes into producing these
effects, including the work of costume designers, stage workers, and administrative
personnel. Hence, the matter of fact on the stage (fig. 4) has two frames: the scenog-
raphy (fig. 5) and – zooming out – the machinery of a theatre (fig. 6).
Latour confuses means with ends by employing the theatre metaphor the
way he does, and he leaves unclear what the designer must do to visualise matters
of concern:
4 A matter of fact as a clear-cut entity
but without context and therefore
ctional; only possible virtually, e.g.,
as in CAD systems
5 By adding scenography, the matter
of fact becomes a matter of concern
with context, interaction, and meaning
6 The audience nds itself addressed by
the scenography, which thus becomes
subject to debate. The scenography is
produced by the machinery of a theatre,
which is not transparent for the audi-
ence. (Illustrations: PFS)
The scenography (fig. 5) is carefully designed and creates in-
tensified impressions compared with perceptions in normal
life. Here, the economic ideal is to strive for aesthetic excess
(larger, louder, brighter). The criterion of success is the emo-
tional and cognitive persuasion of the audience when it ‘buys
into’ the story without necessarily understanding how the
effect is created. The objects onstage are matters of concern as
they have context, interaction, and meaning and help the
play to unfold. Scenography embodies the expertise of de-
signers, movie directors, or theatre directors.
The machinery of a theatre (fig. 6) comprises the assembly of
stakeholders who produce the scenography: every person in-
volved in the production, dissemination, and flows of energy,
materials, information, and money. The economic ideal here
is reductionist (faster, smaller, and cheaper). The criterion of
success is the effective production of high-quality plays while
staying within budget. The objects present within the ma
chin-
ery of a theatre are mere tools (matters of fact) to support the
production of the scenography. Expressed another way, the
‘machinery of a theatre’ is the collective expertise of the gen-
eral administrator and staff.
The Visualisation Task Reconsidered
Scenography delivers the standard perspective of an integral experience for an audi-
ence. An attempt at visualisation could only ask for the backstage view (‘the making
of’) and cannot happen at the same time as the performances or for the same audi-
ences. The machinery of a theatre normally is not transparent and can be visualised
in part by means of diagrams; these, however, can never be complete or neutral.
Zooming In and Out
We use two visualisation states to differentiate Latour’s visualisation task:
Zooming in from the standard scenography
The visualisation task is to strip the scenography from the in-
tegral experience and to try to isolate the mere matters of fact.
This might be a professional designer’s approach to decon-
structing scenographies created by others in order to de
velop
alternatives.
210 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 211
There is a logical disconnect between these two quotes. Emotional involvement is
possible only as long as an audience believes that what it is watching is real, even if
it is just cardboard scenery, celluloid, or pixels. That is, the spectator either limits
his perception to the stage, believes in the play, and consequently is moved by it or
he shifts his attention, deconstructs the entire theatre machinery, and thus remains
unmoved. Matters of concern can only move an audience by drawing on emotions,
opinions, and attitudes that have been experienced by the audience previously, so
that it can react empathically.
The terms ‘scenography’ and ‘machinery of a theatre’ are used interchangea-
bly by Latour, but they really denote two different things. The scenography is what
the audience can see and hear on stage – props, lights, sounds – whereas the ma-
chinery of a theatre is everything – seen and unseen – that goes into producing these
effects, including the work of costume designers, stage workers, and administrative
personnel. Hence, the matter of fact on the stage (fig. 4) has two frames: the scenog-
raphy (fig. 5) and – zooming out – the machinery of a theatre (fig. 6).
Latour confuses means with ends by employing the theatre metaphor the
way he does, and he leaves unclear what the designer must do to visualise matters
of concern:
4 A matter of fact as a clear-cut entity
but without context and therefore
ctional; only possible virtually, e.g.,
as in CAD systems
5 By adding scenography, the matter
of fact becomes a matter of concern
with context, interaction, and meaning
6 The audience nds itself addressed by
the scenography, which thus becomes
subject to debate. The scenography is
produced by the machinery of a theatre,
which is not transparent for the audi-
ence. (Illustrations: PFS)
The scenography (fig. 5) is carefully designed and creates in-
tensified impressions compared with perceptions in normal
life. Here, the economic ideal is to strive for aesthetic excess
(larger, louder, brighter). The criterion of success is the emo-
tional and cognitive persuasion of the audience when it ‘buys
into’ the story without necessarily understanding how the
effect is created. The objects onstage are matters of concern as
they have context, interaction, and meaning and help the
play to unfold. Scenography embodies the expertise of de-
signers, movie directors, or theatre directors.
The machinery of a theatre (fig. 6) comprises the assembly of
stakeholders who produce the scenography: every person in-
volved in the production, dissemination, and flows of energy,
materials, information, and money. The economic ideal here
is reductionist (faster, smaller, and cheaper). The criterion of
success is the effective production of high-quality plays while
staying within budget. The objects present within the ma
chin-
ery of a theatre are mere tools (matters of fact) to support the
production of the scenography. Expressed another way, the
‘machinery of a theatre’ is the collective expertise of the gen-
eral administrator and staff.
The Visualisation Task Reconsidered
Scenography delivers the standard perspective of an integral experience for an audi-
ence. An attempt at visualisation could only ask for the backstage view (‘the making
of’) and cannot happen at the same time as the performances or for the same audi-
ences. The machinery of a theatre normally is not transparent and can be visualised
in part by means of diagrams; these, however, can never be complete or neutral.
Zooming In and Out
We use two visualisation states to differentiate Latour’s visualisation task:
Zooming in from the standard scenography
The visualisation task is to strip the scenography from the in-
tegral experience and to try to isolate the mere matters of fact.
This might be a professional designer’s approach to decon-
structing scenographies created by others in order to de
velop
alternatives.
212 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 213
Zooming out from the standard scenography
The visualisation task is to map all of the stakeholders’ per-
spectives that together constitute the complex socio-techni-
cal machinery of a theatre, including political institutions, fi-
nancial flows, working conditions, buildings, infrastructure,
tourism, ticketing, and so on.
Leaving aside the metaphor and rephrasing Latour’s argument in a more general
way lets us identify two distinct tasks for designers:
1. The designer’s traditional task: mise en scène of artefacts as a
proposition of values and uses, new forms of interaction, and
reasons for debate.
2. The designer’s new task: visualisation of complex and dy-
namic socio-technical systems and the controversial posi-
tions of stakeholders.
8 Designers present visualisations of the
assembly of stakeholders to a public
that integrates different audiences.
The designer becomes visible as a mod-
erator or author. (Illustrations: PFS)
7 The audience experiences and de-
bates a scenography that is pro-
duced by the assembly of stakehold-
ers hidden below it. The designer is
an invisible part of the assembly of
stakeholders.
In modernist idiom, the first task would be associated with affirmation, manipula-
tion, consumption, and lack of transparency, whereas the second would stand for
cri
tique, authenticity, production, and transparency. However, both tasks require
the identical set of designer skills (see 7.1: Papanek’s ‘real world’ and the bias of
modern design).
Deeper Foundations
Latour adds four other ‘specifications’, but they do not help to answer the questions
we raised at the beginning:
Specification one: matters of concern have to matter.
Specification two: matters of concern have to be liked.
Specification three: matters of concern have to be populated.
Specification four: matters of concern have to be durable.
(Latour 2008c: 47–48)
In constructing these specifications, Latour refers to a mysterious collective subject:
‘Can we do better […], now we have to choose […]’ (Latour 2008c: 47). But who is ‘we’?
Mankind? A nation? A neighbourhood? The stakeholders in concerns? Chances are
that there is no ‘we’ unless constituted by common or divergent interests. So the
concern has to be there in the first place to assemble a collective around it. The first
tribes coalesced around shared concerns dealing with scarce resources – food and
shelter. In our age of abundance, however, marketing strives constantly to develop
new concerns by building collectives such as audiences, workforces, or voting blocs
from disparate individuals. Advertising slogans echo the ancient efforts when they
label customers as ‘tribes’ or ‘nations’.
12
With digital networks, the construction
and deconstruction of concerns can be monitored and manipulated publicly in real
time.13
From this it should be obvious that a deeper foundational analysis is needed
to get at the sources that drive people individually and collectively. For this, we pro-
pose to insert Latour’s matters of concern into the ongoing discussion about design
for social change, and especially those approaches that have socio-psychological
foundations (Holmes et al. 2011).
212 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 213
Zooming out from the standard scenography
The visualisation task is to map all of the stakeholders’ per-
spectives that together constitute the complex socio-techni-
cal machinery of a theatre, including political institutions, fi-
nancial flows, working conditions, buildings, infrastructure,
tourism, ticketing, and so on.
Leaving aside the metaphor and rephrasing Latour’s argument in a more general
way lets us identify two distinct tasks for designers:
1. The designer’s traditional task: mise en scène of artefacts as a
proposition of values and uses, new forms of interaction, and
reasons for debate.
2. The designer’s new task: visualisation of complex and dy-
namic socio-technical systems and the controversial posi-
tions of stakeholders.
8 Designers present visualisations of the
assembly of stakeholders to a public
that integrates different audiences.
The designer becomes visible as a mod-
erator or author. (Illustrations: PFS)
7 The audience experiences and de-
bates a scenography that is pro-
duced by the assembly of stakehold-
ers hidden below it. The designer is
an invisible part of the assembly of
stakeholders.
In modernist idiom, the first task would be associated with affirmation, manipula-
tion, consumption, and lack of transparency, whereas the second would stand for
cri
tique, authenticity, production, and transparency. However, both tasks require
the identical set of designer skills (see 7.1: Papanek’s ‘real world’ and the bias of
modern design).
Deeper Foundations
Latour adds four other ‘specifications’, but they do not help to answer the questions
we raised at the beginning:
Specification one: matters of concern have to matter.
Specification two: matters of concern have to be liked.
Specification three: matters of concern have to be populated.
Specification four: matters of concern have to be durable.
(Latour 2008c: 47–48)
In constructing these specifications, Latour refers to a mysterious collective subject:
‘Can we do better […], now we have to choose […]’ (Latour 2008c: 47). But who is ‘we’?
Mankind? A nation? A neighbourhood? The stakeholders in concerns? Chances are
that there is no ‘we’ unless constituted by common or divergent interests. So the
concern has to be there in the first place to assemble a collective around it. The first
tribes coalesced around shared concerns dealing with scarce resources – food and
shelter. In our age of abundance, however, marketing strives constantly to develop
new concerns by building collectives such as audiences, workforces, or voting blocs
from disparate individuals. Advertising slogans echo the ancient efforts when they
label customers as ‘tribes’ or ‘nations’.
12
With digital networks, the construction
and deconstruction of concerns can be monitored and manipulated publicly in real
time.13
From this it should be obvious that a deeper foundational analysis is needed
to get at the sources that drive people individually and collectively. For this, we pro-
pose to insert Latour’s matters of concern into the ongoing discussion about design
for social change, and especially those approaches that have socio-psychological
foundations (Holmes et al. 2011).
214 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 215
Summary: Visualisation or Material Participation?
Latour proposes a visualisation task for designers in the expectation that visualis-
ations will bring rationality to public debate and help to settle controversies. But
the arguments to be visualised will always depend solely on the bias of stakehold-
ers and take place on their level of knowledge and imagination. The designer here
finds himself in a weak position as a moderator of questionable legitimacy.
However, Latour’s ‘matters of concern’ concept can be extended to put design
in a position where it can actually contribute to setting the agenda for these debates.
Designers have always conceptualised new life forms and proposed practical alter-
natives. These design projects then enter the discourse arena, not in the symbolic
form of arguments – visualised or otherwise – but as materialised artefacts.14
In the evolving context of ambient computing, media environments, and in-
telligent objects, the border between physical and virtual entities is becoming in-
creasingly blurred. This means we do not have to decide on whether to prioritise vis-
ualisations or ‘material participation’ (Marres 2012). Instead, we propose to use the
concerns concept as an attractor that can integrate different perspectives. In that
light, we need to examine it more closely if it is to contribute to the foundations of
transformation design.
Part 2 Can We Design Concerns?
To answer this question calls for an enquiry into what concerns are, who defines
them, and how they are constructed and put on the map of public perception. Fur-
thermore, we need to clarify how concerns, values, needs, issues, and frames work to-
gether and why some things matter to people in the first place while others do not.15
These reflections should lead to an understanding of social change, a prereq-
uisite for transformation design. However, designers are far from being the only ones
to focus on social or socio-technical change. Science and technology studies, psy-
chology, and the political and economic sciences all make contributions to study-
ing this issue. It is therefore up to designers to define their unique approach among
all these other professional contributions.
Concerns as Attractors
The typical things people are concerned about family, love, religion, health, sex,
security, education, justice, money, food, violence, sports, the environment, and so
on – constitute different frames of mind.
16
Individual frames of mind can be de-
fined as idiosyncratic, fluid combinations of concerns that may start or stop matter-
ing. Design contributes in the construction and deconstruction of these frames or
mindsets by organising perception and interaction. It introduces new aesthetic dis-
tinctions and artefacts that enable and foster new forms of social interaction. Here,
ease and enjoyment of use are just two of design’s vectors; others are experimenta-
tion, irritation, and provocation. To gain a systematic understanding of concerns
in context, we propose a tentative scheme that treats concerns as attractors capable
of integrating and organising values, needs, and issues.17
Concerns can be defined as interpretations of values that are embedded in re-
ligious, cultural, and social contexts. Whereas values may stay constant over long
periods of time, concerns tend to change more rapidly. So, for example, personal
health would be a constant value subject to being interpreted as different concerns
over time, such as working out, a change of diet, or taking medication. Whereas val-
ues can be articulated in words, concerns manifest themselves by people’s actions
and decisions on how to live, what choices to make, what politics to support, and
what things to buy. Concerns can thus also be defined as biases that produce suffi-
cient energy to power changes in an individual’s mind and actions.
Concerns are not to be equated with needs. Some concerns may be linked to
needs, but not necessarily in a rigid way. For instance, a health concern may be
linked to the need for clean water in one context and the need to avoid eating fast
food in another. Other features of concerns include the following:
They act as filters that sort out fast-changing issues accord
ing
to how relevant they are to a particular concern.
They are self-evident, need no justification, and can differ com-
pletely from one person to the next.
Concerns can also serve as attractors around which groups of
individuals form.
Concerns mix up categories and scale: a lost soccer match by
your local team can be a bigger concern than a war in a dis
tant
country.
Concerns are not necessarily logical: the wealthiest nations
are not the happiest, the most secure communities may feel
insecure.
Starting Points
Instead of taking products or services as a starting point for design, we begin by ask-
ing questions such as: what concerns make people behave in a certain way? How
do
individuals interact with one another, with artefacts, and with the environment?
Why
do people speak and dress the way they do? Why do people buy the things they do?
214 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 215
Summary: Visualisation or Material Participation?
Latour proposes a visualisation task for designers in the expectation that visualis-
ations will bring rationality to public debate and help to settle controversies. But
the arguments to be visualised will always depend solely on the bias of stakehold-
ers and take place on their level of knowledge and imagination. The designer here
finds himself in a weak position as a moderator of questionable legitimacy.
However, Latour’s ‘matters of concern’ concept can be extended to put design
in a position where it can actually contribute to setting the agenda for these debates.
Designers have always conceptualised new life forms and proposed practical alter-
natives. These design projects then enter the discourse arena, not in the symbolic
form of arguments – visualised or otherwise – but as materialised artefacts.14
In the evolving context of ambient computing, media environments, and in-
telligent objects, the border between physical and virtual entities is becoming in-
creasingly blurred. This means we do not have to decide on whether to prioritise vis-
ualisations or ‘material participation’ (Marres 2012). Instead, we propose to use the
concerns concept as an attractor that can integrate different perspectives. In that
light, we need to examine it more closely if it is to contribute to the foundations of
transformation design.
Part 2 Can We Design Concerns?
To answer this question calls for an enquiry into what concerns are, who defines
them, and how they are constructed and put on the map of public perception. Fur-
thermore, we need to clarify how concerns, values, needs, issues, and frames work to-
gether and why some things matter to people in the first place while others do not.15
These reflections should lead to an understanding of social change, a prereq-
uisite for transformation design. However, designers are far from being the only ones
to focus on social or socio-technical change. Science and technology studies, psy-
chology, and the political and economic sciences all make contributions to study-
ing this issue. It is therefore up to designers to define their unique approach among
all these other professional contributions.
Concerns as Attractors
The typical things people are concerned about family, love, religion, health, sex,
security, education, justice, money, food, violence, sports, the environment, and so
on – constitute different frames of mind.
16
Individual frames of mind can be de-
fined as idiosyncratic, fluid combinations of concerns that may start or stop matter-
ing. Design contributes in the construction and deconstruction of these frames or
mindsets by organising perception and interaction. It introduces new aesthetic dis-
tinctions and artefacts that enable and foster new forms of social interaction. Here,
ease and enjoyment of use are just two of design’s vectors; others are experimenta-
tion, irritation, and provocation. To gain a systematic understanding of concerns
in context, we propose a tentative scheme that treats concerns as attractors capable
of integrating and organising values, needs, and issues.17
Concerns can be defined as interpretations of values that are embedded in re-
ligious, cultural, and social contexts. Whereas values may stay constant over long
periods of time, concerns tend to change more rapidly. So, for example, personal
health would be a constant value subject to being interpreted as different concerns
over time, such as working out, a change of diet, or taking medication. Whereas val-
ues can be articulated in words, concerns manifest themselves by people’s actions
and decisions on how to live, what choices to make, what politics to support, and
what things to buy. Concerns can thus also be defined as biases that produce suffi-
cient energy to power changes in an individual’s mind and actions.
Concerns are not to be equated with needs. Some concerns may be linked to
needs, but not necessarily in a rigid way. For instance, a health concern may be
linked to the need for clean water in one context and the need to avoid eating fast
food in another. Other features of concerns include the following:
They act as filters that sort out fast-changing issues accord
ing
to how relevant they are to a particular concern.
They are self-evident, need no justification, and can differ com-
pletely from one person to the next.
Concerns can also serve as attractors around which groups of
individuals form.
Concerns mix up categories and scale: a lost soccer match by
your local team can be a bigger concern than a war in a dis
tant
country.
Concerns are not necessarily logical: the wealthiest nations
are not the happiest, the most secure communities may feel
insecure.
Starting Points
Instead of taking products or services as a starting point for design, we begin by ask-
ing questions such as: what concerns make people behave in a certain way? How
do
individuals interact with one another, with artefacts, and with the environment?
Why
do people speak and dress the way they do? Why do people buy the things they do?
216 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 217
The standard models of homo economicus, or Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, are
incapable of answering these questions. This is because they require human eco-
nomic behaviour to be plainly irrational; the models can accommodate neither ra-
tional behaviour that follows psychological patterns nor an economy of libidinous
energies (Lyotard 1974). Their approach requires energy flows that govern minds in
an archaic, inflexible way only marginally alterable by social form and individual
will. Genetic make-up, cultural structures, and social upbringing combine to form
frames that preconfigure the concerns individuals are constantly referring to, be it
with approval or denial, knowingly or unknowingly.
It is clear that design cannot work counter to these concerns; it can only try to
work with them. Thus, designers need to think of themselves as ‘libido engineers’
who take assumptions about the driving forces of concerns as starting points and,
by introducing new actants (to use Latour’s term), try to channel them in new direc-
tions. In a way, it is design voodoo: the steering of actions by manipulating objects,
with the difference that transformation design makes a real impact by taking con-
cerns into account.
Example: Legalising Active Euthanasia
To show the difference between Latour’s concept of matters of concern and the pro-
posed deeper understanding of concerns, it may be instructive to think about dying
and the cultural forms available to cope with it specifically, the controversy that
surrounds legalising active euthanasia. To visualise this concern from Latour’s per-
9 The ‘beauty’ concern in two
interpretations:
1. The classical Greek way
(a garden sculpture)
2. The American pop way
(Disney princess on an air mattress).
(Photos: PFS; collage: doppelpunkt,
Berlin)
spective, the objective might be to map the pros and cons with the goal of fostering
a rational public debate preparatory to making political decisions. But designers
can do more than that by offering new forms, not for the sake of mere argument but
as a practical alternative. It will not resolve the question of whether or not active eu-
thanasia should be legalised, but it will, hopefully, help by introducing new options.
Simply mapping the debate would fail to touch the profound concerns that drive
this issue; its roots tap into a deeper dimension.
Rituals as Evolutionary Concerns
Engaging in a ritual means relying on an approved social form generated from the
accumulated experience of generations. Rituals limit personal choices and reduce
responsibility. From the energy perspective suggested above, rituals also reduce
emotional, cognitive, and creative load. The evolutionary basis of culture and the
cradle of design can be found in rituals: primordial humans faced with the over-
whelming powers of nature at first lacked the tools and knowledge to cope with
them. But instead of letting themselves be paralysed by anxiety, they invented ritu-
als to help them to endure and overcome adversity. Dancing to make it rain may not
influence the weather, but it helps people to carry on. When everything around
them seems to fall apart, humans need form to keep it all together (Sloterdijk 2007).
When undisputed rituals erode, as in our own time, designers are called on to in-
vent new social forms that will help people to cope with enduring concerns.
10 Two concerns meet in this sculpture
made from a petrol can:
1. identity (a tribal ritual mask) and
2. mobility (the can as an iconic object
of civilisation). Romuald Hazoumé:
Bénin, 1991. ( Collection Dr Martin
Baumgart, Bonn; photo: PFS)
216 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 217
The standard models of homo economicus, or Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, are
incapable of answering these questions. This is because they require human eco-
nomic behaviour to be plainly irrational; the models can accommodate neither ra-
tional behaviour that follows psychological patterns nor an economy of libidinous
energies (Lyotard 1974). Their approach requires energy flows that govern minds in
an archaic, inflexible way only marginally alterable by social form and individual
will. Genetic make-up, cultural structures, and social upbringing combine to form
frames that preconfigure the concerns individuals are constantly referring to, be it
with approval or denial, knowingly or unknowingly.
It is clear that design cannot work counter to these concerns; it can only try to
work with them. Thus, designers need to think of themselves as ‘libido engineers’
who take assumptions about the driving forces of concerns as starting points and,
by introducing new actants (to use Latour’s term), try to channel them in new direc-
tions. In a way, it is design voodoo: the steering of actions by manipulating objects,
with the difference that transformation design makes a real impact by taking con-
cerns into account.
Example: Legalising Active Euthanasia
To show the difference between Latour’s concept of matters of concern and the pro-
posed deeper understanding of concerns, it may be instructive to think about dying
and the cultural forms available to cope with it specifically, the controversy that
surrounds legalising active euthanasia. To visualise this concern from Latour’s per-
9 The ‘beauty’ concern in two
interpretations:
1. The classical Greek way
(a garden sculpture)
2. The American pop way
(Disney princess on an air mattress).
(Photos: PFS; collage: doppelpunkt,
Berlin)
spective, the objective might be to map the pros and cons with the goal of fostering
a rational public debate preparatory to making political decisions. But designers
can do more than that by offering new forms, not for the sake of mere argument but
as a practical alternative. It will not resolve the question of whether or not active eu-
thanasia should be legalised, but it will, hopefully, help by introducing new options.
Simply mapping the debate would fail to touch the profound concerns that drive
this issue; its roots tap into a deeper dimension.
Rituals as Evolutionary Concerns
Engaging in a ritual means relying on an approved social form generated from the
accumulated experience of generations. Rituals limit personal choices and reduce
responsibility. From the energy perspective suggested above, rituals also reduce
emotional, cognitive, and creative load. The evolutionary basis of culture and the
cradle of design can be found in rituals: primordial humans faced with the over-
whelming powers of nature at first lacked the tools and knowledge to cope with
them. But instead of letting themselves be paralysed by anxiety, they invented ritu-
als to help them to endure and overcome adversity. Dancing to make it rain may not
influence the weather, but it helps people to carry on. When everything around
them seems to fall apart, humans need form to keep it all together (Sloterdijk 2007).
When undisputed rituals erode, as in our own time, designers are called on to in-
vent new social forms that will help people to cope with enduring concerns.
10 Two concerns meet in this sculpture
made from a petrol can:
1. identity (a tribal ritual mask) and
2. mobility (the can as an iconic object
of civilisation). Romuald Hazoumé:
Bénin, 1991. ( Collection Dr Martin
Baumgart, Bonn; photo: PFS)
218 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 219
A Methodology for Designing Concerns
The ‘matters of concern’ approach can help to integrate the following perspectives
with design:
emergent technology (new products and services),
psychological dynamics (minds and cognitive governance),
and
social interaction (cultural innovation).
A suitable methodology, while it can draw in part on the traditional design reper-
toire of touch point analysis, cultural probes, and prototyping, will also have to in-
tegrate methods from ANT, cognitive psychology (triple loop learning), and innova-
tion theory (presencing/Theory-U, Scharmer 2009). What follows is a preliminary
sketch of methods undergoing active development:
1. Observe chains of operations as closely as possible (Latour:
ANT’s view).
2. Accept that objects have agency too (ANT).
3. Build an appropriate repertoire to record operations (data
visualisation, visual rhetoric).
4. Understand actors’ concerns through empathy and cognitive
analysis (Latour: actor scripts).
5. Find translations and breaks between values, concerns, needs,
and issues.
6. Follow the deduction and dynamic changes of frames of mind.
7. Invent alternative scripts and translations (social innovation).
8. Design services, products, and environments that demand
new scripts and translations.
9. Implement new services, products, and environments (triple
loop learning).
10. Observe working of new scripts and translations, evaluate,
and start the next iteration.
Designing for the Real ‘Real World’
The sketched approach to designing concerns is not exactly new to design. But in-
troducing new descriptions will help the work to proceed in a more solidly grounded
manner, establish relationships with other competency fields, and historically and
systematically contextualise the approach. Below is a look at two examples from
design history that deal with the discussion on needs and the claim to design for
change.
Needs: Papanek’s ‘Real World’ and Modern Design Bias
The concern approach can help to overcome the fixation on needs that was central
to design discussions for decades. A prime example of this mania is Papanek’s
famous book Design for the Real World, which opens with this bold statement:
11 Papanek’s diagrammed assumptions about ‘what people really need’ and ‘what people are told they need
and want’. But ‘what the people really want’ he left in complete doubt. (Papanek 1971)
218 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 219
A Methodology for Designing Concerns
The ‘matters of concern’ approach can help to integrate the following perspectives
with design:
emergent technology (new products and services),
psychological dynamics (minds and cognitive governance),
and
social interaction (cultural innovation).
A suitable methodology, while it can draw in part on the traditional design reper-
toire of touch point analysis, cultural probes, and prototyping, will also have to in-
tegrate methods from ANT, cognitive psychology (triple loop learning), and innova-
tion theory (presencing/Theory-U, Scharmer 2009). What follows is a preliminary
sketch of methods undergoing active development:
1. Observe chains of operations as closely as possible (Latour:
ANT’s view).
2. Accept that objects have agency too (ANT).
3. Build an appropriate repertoire to record operations (data
visualisation, visual rhetoric).
4. Understand actors’ concerns through empathy and cognitive
analysis (Latour: actor scripts).
5. Find translations and breaks between values, concerns, needs,
and issues.
6. Follow the deduction and dynamic changes of frames of mind.
7. Invent alternative scripts and translations (social innovation).
8. Design services, products, and environments that demand
new scripts and translations.
9. Implement new services, products, and environments (triple
loop learning).
10. Observe working of new scripts and translations, evaluate,
and start the next iteration.
Designing for the Real ‘Real World’
The sketched approach to designing concerns is not exactly new to design. But in-
troducing new descriptions will help the work to proceed in a more solidly grounded
manner, establish relationships with other competency fields, and historically and
systematically contextualise the approach. Below is a look at two examples from
design history that deal with the discussion on needs and the claim to design for
change.
Needs: Papanek’s ‘Real World’ and Modern Design Bias
The concern approach can help to overcome the fixation on needs that was central
to design discussions for decades. A prime example of this mania is Papanek’s
famous book Design for the Real World, which opens with this bold statement:
11 Papanek’s diagrammed assumptions about ‘what people really need’ and ‘what people are told they need
and want’. But ‘what the people really want’ he left in complete doubt. (Papanek 1971)
220 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 221
There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them.
And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to
buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who
don’t care, is probably the phoniest eld in existence today. (Papanek 1971: ix)
This introduction lets Papanek launch into a radical redefinition of design as an
agent of change, working for ‘real needs’ in a ‘real world’. Papanek identifies the
‘real needs’ as ‘peace, housing, food […]’ and the suggested needs as ‘law & order,
the latest fashion, a steady job […]’. The category ‘What the people really want’ was
left undefined, however, filled only by a scattering of question marks (Papanek 1971:
from diagram).
In drawing a clear distinction between affirmative design (advertising, manip-
ulation, consumption) on the one hand and critical design (information, critique,
participation) on the other, Papanek exhibits the bias of modern design.18 Design-
ers working from the perspective of concerns overcome this bias and open them-
selves to a multitude of realities. In contrast with Papanek’s normative scheme,
from the perspective of concerns designers see no clear boundary between manipu-
lated and authentic needs. There is no way to distinguish ‘real’ concerns from the
‘unreal’. Recognising and satisfying needs may go hand in hand with civilisation,
but inventing new needs is what we call culture.
The methods of creating ‘value propositions for business models’ (Oster
walder
et al. 2014) and the methods aiming for higher values (humanitarian, sustainabil
ity)
are quite close if not identical, as in ‘selling hamburgers, selling behavior change’
(Crompton 2010: 30). The mechanics are the same, and they both draw on archaic
concerns, as famously captured in the marketing insight ‘sell the sizzle, not the
steak’.
What Latour correctly calls scenography is actually the designer’s expertise in
organising perception and interaction so as to create preferences for a brand, a be-
haviour, a political party, or a fashion statement. Designers always aim to address
the true ‘real world’ of concerns that move people and that are the driving forces for
the factual world of products and services.
Change: Slowing and Futuring
That change was being accepted as a positive value first became evident in the 1960s
and 1970s, when activists faced petrified structures in society, government, and cor-
porations. Since the 1980s, however, the demand for permanent innovation and so-
cial change has been co-opted by neo-liberalism, accelerating the pace of change to
ultimately destabilise the individual. Therefore, transformation design cannot sim-
ply foster social change; it may on occasion actually have to roll back deleterious so-
cial change, for instance, as represented by gentrification processes. Processes of
futuring – the exploration of the future – as well as counter- and de-futuring thus
compete, and the designer’s expertise in creating suggestive rhetorical projections
and speculative culture is available for use by all stakeholders.
While technological innovations may have a disruptive effect on social life, in-
troducing new cultural forms takes time and patience. This implies that, in contrast
to the revolutionising impetus of modern heroes of design, designers of the future
may find that by simply slowing down, they can create subversive new strategies:
That’s where the slowing down comes in – you can create new habits only by slowing
down, because new habits also mean new feelings, new interests, new possibilities […]
(Isabelle Stengers in Zournazi 2002: 266)
This insight echoes Latour’s concept of the ‘compositionist’:
For a compositionist, nothing is beyond dispute. And yet, closure has to be achieved. But
it is achieved only by the slow process of composition and compromise, not by the reve-
lation of the world of beyond. (Latour 2010: 478)
Norms and Participation
The wish to distinguish positive from negative change might easily lead to a rigid set
of values that are too narrow, static, and culturally biased to support the idea of dy-
namic transformation.19 If transformation design is to integrate the thinking on mat-
ters of concern, it will have to concede that there are only concerns rather than objec-
tive,
reliable, or absolute values20 to work towards. Instead of adhering to a normative
set of values, designers will have to decide individually on what commission to accept
,
what compromises to make, what risks to take, and what strategy to deploy.
New social forms cannot always be created collectively (‘nightmare participa-
tion’, Miessen 2012). There may be times when it takes an iconoclast to propose a
novel perspective. Participatory design tends to work best when participants share
a predefined, common habitat, such as a workplace. But inventing new or even rad-
ical forms of social interaction is not something that is best done by committee.
This sort of transformation design calls for personal conviction, dedication, and of-
ten the making of lonely decisions.
Designers as Superheroes
‘Can designers save the world?’ This question was asked decades ago by the Inter-
national Design Center Berlin (IDZ 1970).
21
The context was the disappointment en-
gen
dered by the failed revolutionary ambitions of the 1960s, growing awareness of
220 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 221
There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them.
And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to
buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who
don’t care, is probably the phoniest eld in existence today. (Papanek 1971: ix)
This introduction lets Papanek launch into a radical redefinition of design as an
agent of change, working for ‘real needs’ in a ‘real world’. Papanek identifies the
‘real needs’ as ‘peace, housing, food […]’ and the suggested needs as ‘law & order,
the latest fashion, a steady job […]’. The category ‘What the people really want’ was
left undefined, however, filled only by a scattering of question marks (Papanek 1971:
from diagram).
In drawing a clear distinction between affirmative design (advertising, manip-
ulation, consumption) on the one hand and critical design (information, critique,
participation) on the other, Papanek exhibits the bias of modern design.18 Design-
ers working from the perspective of concerns overcome this bias and open them-
selves to a multitude of realities. In contrast with Papanek’s normative scheme,
from the perspective of concerns designers see no clear boundary between manipu-
lated and authentic needs. There is no way to distinguish ‘real’ concerns from the
‘unreal’. Recognising and satisfying needs may go hand in hand with civilisation,
but inventing new needs is what we call culture.
The methods of creating ‘value propositions for business models’ (Oster
walder
et al. 2014) and the methods aiming for higher values (humanitarian, sustainabil
ity)
are quite close if not identical, as in ‘selling hamburgers, selling behavior change’
(Crompton 2010: 30). The mechanics are the same, and they both draw on archaic
concerns, as famously captured in the marketing insight ‘sell the sizzle, not the
steak’.
What Latour correctly calls scenography is actually the designer’s expertise in
organising perception and interaction so as to create preferences for a brand, a be-
haviour, a political party, or a fashion statement. Designers always aim to address
the true ‘real world’ of concerns that move people and that are the driving forces for
the factual world of products and services.
Change: Slowing and Futuring
That change was being accepted as a positive value first became evident in the 1960s
and 1970s, when activists faced petrified structures in society, government, and cor-
porations. Since the 1980s, however, the demand for permanent innovation and so-
cial change has been co-opted by neo-liberalism, accelerating the pace of change to
ultimately destabilise the individual. Therefore, transformation design cannot sim-
ply foster social change; it may on occasion actually have to roll back deleterious so-
cial change, for instance, as represented by gentrification processes. Processes of
futuring – the exploration of the future – as well as counter- and de-futuring thus
compete, and the designer’s expertise in creating suggestive rhetorical projections
and speculative culture is available for use by all stakeholders.
While technological innovations may have a disruptive effect on social life, in-
troducing new cultural forms takes time and patience. This implies that, in contrast
to the revolutionising impetus of modern heroes of design, designers of the future
may find that by simply slowing down, they can create subversive new strategies:
That’s where the slowing down comes in – you can create new habits only by slowing
down, because new habits also mean new feelings, new interests, new possibilities […]
(Isabelle Stengers in Zournazi 2002: 266)
This insight echoes Latour’s concept of the ‘compositionist’:
For a compositionist, nothing is beyond dispute. And yet, closure has to be achieved. But
it is achieved only by the slow process of composition and compromise, not by the reve-
lation of the world of beyond. (Latour 2010: 478)
Norms and Participation
The wish to distinguish positive from negative change might easily lead to a rigid set
of values that are too narrow, static, and culturally biased to support the idea of dy-
namic transformation.19 If transformation design is to integrate the thinking on mat-
ters of concern, it will have to concede that there are only concerns rather than objec-
tive,
reliable, or absolute values20 to work towards. Instead of adhering to a normative
set of values, designers will have to decide individually on what commission to accept
,
what compromises to make, what risks to take, and what strategy to deploy.
New social forms cannot always be created collectively (‘nightmare participa-
tion’, Miessen 2012). There may be times when it takes an iconoclast to propose a
novel perspective. Participatory design tends to work best when participants share
a predefined, common habitat, such as a workplace. But inventing new or even rad-
ical forms of social interaction is not something that is best done by committee.
This sort of transformation design calls for personal conviction, dedication, and of-
ten the making of lonely decisions.
Designers as Superheroes
‘Can designers save the world?’ This question was asked decades ago by the Inter-
national Design Center Berlin (IDZ 1970).
21
The context was the disappointment en-
gen
dered by the failed revolutionary ambitions of the 1960s, growing awareness of
222 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 223
eco
logical concerns, the influence of pop culture, and scientific discourses in
cyber-
netics and systems theory.22 Today’s context may seem quite different, but the opti-
mism or sometimes pretension still motivates today’s designers.
23
This puts the
modern designer at the other extreme from Papanek’s industrial designer: the
designer as superhero out to save the world.
In our Anthropocene epoch, man’s power to shape the world, himself in
cluded,
is almost total. Increasingly, decisions can and must be made that before were not
feasible, because of either factual constraints or ritualistic behaviour. Profound,
permanent change challenges design, which is now understood as capable of ques-
tioning and re-conceptualising the human-made habitat. But change does not wait
for the designer; social dynamics and technology are the drivers, and the conse-
quences are unforeseeable. Thus, the power of design is not necessarily the power
of designers. Instead, it might well be the power of nuclear physicists, molecular
biologists, nanoengineers, or simply businessmen, who all harbour a ‘different
understanding of design’ (Konsorski-Lang and Hampe 2010).
Conclusion
The world does not wait for designers. Change will happen, designers or no design-
ers. Many crucial concerns – life expectancy, education, and healthcare, to name a
few – have developed in much more positive ways than would be suggested by the
average public opinion survey.24 Delivering a ‘fact-based world view’ (gapminder.
com) in the respectable tradition of Fuller, Eames, and Neurath remains a valid
goal. Taking up Latour’s challenge of visualising matters of concern means creat-
ing
proper scenographies for matters of fact while keeping in mind that they are
always subject to rhetorical considerations. However, the ultimate goal is to define
visual and functional standards on the level of today’s powerful media and the con-
ceptual frameworks of argument visualisation and online deliberation. Founda
tions
for this endeavour can be found in the history of formalisation and aesthetics.
In transformation design, designers will have to define a professional contribu-
tion that sets them apart from change agents in other competency fields. Designers
can apply their existing skill set to new tasks and use them to make socially pre-
ferred changes an attractive alternative. However, designers will also have to refresh
their repertoire to work with irritation, provocation, narration, and speculation.
New strategies will have to be developed in cooperation with the brightest minds in
computer science, engineering, biology, psychology, politics, and, yes, advertising.
In this context, the ‘concerns approach’ merits closer examination to gauge its po-
tential as an attractor capable of integrating these perspectives for future transfor-
mation design.
1 See Jonas 2000 and later Verbeek 2005; Shove et al. 2007; Matt 2010; Holert 2011; and Fry 2011 and
2012. The editors of Latour’s Prometheus text stated ‘an excitement about actor-network theory (ANT)
and a sense that it offered new ways of thinking and approaching not only design but also its histories’
(Hackney, Glynne, and Minton 2008: xi).
2 Ehn 2011; Ehn et al. 2012; Binder et al. 2012; Bjögvinsson et al. 2012; Eriksen 2012; Moll 2012;
Lindström and Ståhl 2014.
3 An exception is Latour’s long-time collaborator Albena Yaneva, who takes part in his research projects
and produces visualisations for architectural problems (Yaneva 2012).
4 The term ‘inscription devices’ was coined contemporaneously with Friedrich Kittler’s ‘Aufschreibe-
systeme’ (Kittler 1985).
5 Here, Latour refers explicitly to On the Rationalization of Sight (Ivins 1973).
6 The term ‘world-building’ explicitly refers to Ways of Worldmaking (Goodman 1978).
7 http://mfglabs.com/where-does-my-tweet-go.
8 Latour’s project ‘MACOSPOL – Mapping Controversies on Science for Politics’ set out to map controver-
sies in the public square. Unlike Latour’s prominent and widely acclaimed exhibitions, this project is rel-
atively unknown and has not yet been subjected to design discourse. Unfortunately, the project is poorly
documented, although it was carried out with prominent international partners and funding by the EU.
A deeper analysis would show that it suffers from a decit in visual and functional standards, but such
an analysis is beyond the scope of the present article.
(See http://www.medialab.sciences-po.fr/projets/macospol, http://mappingcontroversies.net, and a
general introduction to the project by Latour on video from 2010 at http://vimeo.com/10037347.)
All URLs in this article were last retrieved on 23 September 2014.
9 New tools for data journalism are in active development at companies such as Narrativescience,
Alchemy API, and Semantria, all of which use computational linguistics and articial intelligence.
Google and Facebook recently invested heavily in articial intelligence: http://www.newyorker.com/
tech/elements/what-facebook-wants-with-articial-intelligence.
10 Latour 2004; 2005: 87–110; 2008b; and 2010.
11 Latour relates his ‘matters of concern’ concept to Heidegger’s notion of ‘Ding’ and the etymological root
of the Germanic thing that is interpreted as describing a meeting of tribal chiefs to discuss concerns.
Leaving aside the question of whether this is a proper example for today’s idea of a debate, where La-
tour misses the mark is with Heidegger’s meditation on closeness (‘Nähe’), from which he develops his
understanding of ‘Ding’ as well as his notion of ‘Zeug’. In design and computation, these aspects were
discussed early on (Winograd and Flores 1986; Bonsiepe 1991), but Latour ignores them.
12 Examples include style and fashion tribes: ‘United Colors of Benetton’ and ‘Nation of Why Not’
(Royal Carribean Cruises).
13 The dynamics of leadership and collectives have been described this way: ‘It is the rst follower who
turns a lone nut into a leader.’ See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ.
14 This is also an original research topic for cultural studies: ‘And the implementation of design as a fun-
damental cultural technique leads to phenomena like those of knowledge- or thought-design and raises
the question of where we can still draw a line between the work on concepts and the presence of objects’
(Engell and Siegert 2011: 7; translation: PFS).
15 This central question of sociology seems to have some current impact, as it was researched recently:
Why Things Matter to People (Sayer 2011).
16 For a discussion of the concept of frames within behavioural change, see Crompton 2010: 40–76.
17 The dynamics of this scheme would need to be worked out. For now, this approach’s only purpose is
delivering a design supplement to the standard perspectives of technology (with needs as an attractor),
psychology (with values as an attractor), or politics (with issues as an attractor).
18 This bias was still evident decades later when Dunne and Raby conceptualised their ‘critical design’
(Dunne and Raby 2001: 58) and is retained even in their new framework of ‘speculative design’
(Dunne and Raby 2013: vii).
19 ‘[…] to create a counter-narrative aimed at generating and balancing positive social, institutional,
environmental and/or economic change’. (Fuad-Luke 2009: 27)
20 An exception might be the norms dened by organisations such as the UN and WHO, but these are too
general to work with towards distinctive designs.
21 Forty years later, this question was repeated as ‘Dasein as Design Or: Must Design Save the World?’
( Oosterling 2009) and ‘Design Clinic: Can Design Heal the World? Scrutinising Victor Papanek’s Impact
on Today’s Design Agenda’ (Fineder and Geisler 2011).
222 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 223
eco
logical concerns, the influence of pop culture, and scientific discourses in
cyber-
netics and systems theory.22 Today’s context may seem quite different, but the opti-
mism or sometimes pretension still motivates today’s designers.
23
This puts the
modern designer at the other extreme from Papanek’s industrial designer: the
designer as superhero out to save the world.
In our Anthropocene epoch, man’s power to shape the world, himself in
cluded,
is almost total. Increasingly, decisions can and must be made that before were not
feasible, because of either factual constraints or ritualistic behaviour. Profound,
permanent change challenges design, which is now understood as capable of ques-
tioning and re-conceptualising the human-made habitat. But change does not wait
for the designer; social dynamics and technology are the drivers, and the conse-
quences are unforeseeable. Thus, the power of design is not necessarily the power
of designers. Instead, it might well be the power of nuclear physicists, molecular
biologists, nanoengineers, or simply businessmen, who all harbour a ‘different
understanding of design’ (Konsorski-Lang and Hampe 2010).
Conclusion
The world does not wait for designers. Change will happen, designers or no design-
ers. Many crucial concerns – life expectancy, education, and healthcare, to name a
few – have developed in much more positive ways than would be suggested by the
average public opinion survey.24 Delivering a ‘fact-based world view’ (gapminder.
com) in the respectable tradition of Fuller, Eames, and Neurath remains a valid
goal. Taking up Latour’s challenge of visualising matters of concern means creat-
ing
proper scenographies for matters of fact while keeping in mind that they are
always subject to rhetorical considerations. However, the ultimate goal is to define
visual and functional standards on the level of today’s powerful media and the con-
ceptual frameworks of argument visualisation and online deliberation. Founda
tions
for this endeavour can be found in the history of formalisation and aesthetics.
In transformation design, designers will have to define a professional contribu-
tion that sets them apart from change agents in other competency fields. Designers
can apply their existing skill set to new tasks and use them to make socially pre-
ferred changes an attractive alternative. However, designers will also have to refresh
their repertoire to work with irritation, provocation, narration, and speculation.
New strategies will have to be developed in cooperation with the brightest minds in
computer science, engineering, biology, psychology, politics, and, yes, advertising.
In this context, the ‘concerns approach’ merits closer examination to gauge its po-
tential as an attractor capable of integrating these perspectives for future transfor-
mation design.
1 See Jonas 2000 and later Verbeek 2005; Shove et al. 2007; Matt 2010; Holert 2011; and Fry 2011 and
2012. The editors of Latour’s Prometheus text stated ‘an excitement about actor-network theory (ANT)
and a sense that it offered new ways of thinking and approaching not only design but also its histories’
(Hackney, Glynne, and Minton 2008: xi).
2 Ehn 2011; Ehn et al. 2012; Binder et al. 2012; Bjögvinsson et al. 2012; Eriksen 2012; Moll 2012;
Lindström and Ståhl 2014.
3 An exception is Latour’s long-time collaborator Albena Yaneva, who takes part in his research projects
and produces visualisations for architectural problems (Yaneva 2012).
4 The term ‘inscription devices’ was coined contemporaneously with Friedrich Kittler’s ‘Aufschreibe-
systeme’ (Kittler 1985).
5 Here, Latour refers explicitly to On the Rationalization of Sight (Ivins 1973).
6 The term ‘world-building’ explicitly refers to Ways of Worldmaking (Goodman 1978).
7 http://mfglabs.com/where-does-my-tweet-go.
8 Latour’s project ‘MACOSPOL – Mapping Controversies on Science for Politics’ set out to map controver-
sies in the public square. Unlike Latour’s prominent and widely acclaimed exhibitions, this project is rel-
atively unknown and has not yet been subjected to design discourse. Unfortunately, the project is poorly
documented, although it was carried out with prominent international partners and funding by the EU.
A deeper analysis would show that it suffers from a decit in visual and functional standards, but such
an analysis is beyond the scope of the present article.
(See http://www.medialab.sciences-po.fr/projets/macospol, http://mappingcontroversies.net, and a
general introduction to the project by Latour on video from 2010 at http://vimeo.com/10037347.)
All URLs in this article were last retrieved on 23 September 2014.
9 New tools for data journalism are in active development at companies such as Narrativescience,
Alchemy API, and Semantria, all of which use computational linguistics and articial intelligence.
Google and Facebook recently invested heavily in articial intelligence: http://www.newyorker.com/
tech/elements/what-facebook-wants-with-articial-intelligence.
10 Latour 2004; 2005: 87–110; 2008b; and 2010.
11 Latour relates his ‘matters of concern’ concept to Heidegger’s notion of ‘Ding’ and the etymological root
of the Germanic thing that is interpreted as describing a meeting of tribal chiefs to discuss concerns.
Leaving aside the question of whether this is a proper example for today’s idea of a debate, where La-
tour misses the mark is with Heidegger’s meditation on closeness (‘Nähe’), from which he develops his
understanding of ‘Ding’ as well as his notion of ‘Zeug’. In design and computation, these aspects were
discussed early on (Winograd and Flores 1986; Bonsiepe 1991), but Latour ignores them.
12 Examples include style and fashion tribes: ‘United Colors of Benetton’ and ‘Nation of Why Not’
(Royal Carribean Cruises).
13 The dynamics of leadership and collectives have been described this way: ‘It is the rst follower who
turns a lone nut into a leader.’ See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ.
14 This is also an original research topic for cultural studies: ‘And the implementation of design as a fun-
damental cultural technique leads to phenomena like those of knowledge- or thought-design and raises
the question of where we can still draw a line between the work on concepts and the presence of objects’
(Engell and Siegert 2011: 7; translation: PFS).
15 This central question of sociology seems to have some current impact, as it was researched recently:
Why Things Matter to People (Sayer 2011).
16 For a discussion of the concept of frames within behavioural change, see Crompton 2010: 40–76.
17 The dynamics of this scheme would need to be worked out. For now, this approach’s only purpose is
delivering a design supplement to the standard perspectives of technology (with needs as an attractor),
psychology (with values as an attractor), or politics (with issues as an attractor).
18 This bias was still evident decades later when Dunne and Raby conceptualised their ‘critical design’
(Dunne and Raby 2001: 58) and is retained even in their new framework of ‘speculative design’
(Dunne and Raby 2013: vii).
19 ‘[…] to create a counter-narrative aimed at generating and balancing positive social, institutional,
environmental and/or economic change’. (Fuad-Luke 2009: 27)
20 An exception might be the norms dened by organisations such as the UN and WHO, but these are too
general to work with towards distinctive designs.
21 Forty years later, this question was repeated as ‘Dasein as Design Or: Must Design Save the World?’
( Oosterling 2009) and ‘Design Clinic: Can Design Heal the World? Scrutinising Victor Papanek’s Impact
on Today’s Design Agenda’ (Fineder and Geisler 2011).
224 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 225
22 See ‘Umwelt und Revolte’ (Maldonado 1972), ‘Unsere Welt – Ein vernetztes System’ [Our World:
A Networked System] (Vester 1978), ‘Ecology of Mind’ (Bateson 1979), and ‘Sciences of the Articial’
(Simon 1969).
23 Some design schools promise to make superheroes of their students: ‘Design Futures: a unique inter-
disciplinary programme aimed at designers and thinkers who will shape society in the coming decades’
(University of Brighton, UK, http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/study/design-craft/design-futures).
On the downside, designers are made responsible for catastrophes as well: ‘[…] Design Futures philoso-
phy which recognises that many of the social and environmental catastrophes of the contemporary world
have been caused by design’ (Grifth University, Queensland College of Art, Australia, http://designfu-
tures.com.au/about/design-futures).
24 Test yourself at http://www.gapminder.org/ignorance.
References
Bateson, Gregory (1979). Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. Boston: E.P. Dutton.
Binder, Thomas, De Michelis, Giorgio, Ehn, Pelle, Linde, Per, Jacucci, Giulio, Wagner, Ina, and Telier, A. (2012).
‘Drawing Things Together’. In Interactions 19, no. 2, pp. 34–37.
Bjögvinsson, Erling, Ehn, Pelle, and Hillgren, Per-Anders (2012). ‘Design Things and Design Thinking:
Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges’. In Design Issues 28, no. 3 (Summer 2012), pp. 101–16.
Bonsiepe, Gui (1991). ‘Interface Interpretationen’. In form+zweck 2/3 (1991), Berlin, pp. 73–77.
Crompton, Tom (2010). ‘Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values’. Available at:
http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/common_cause_report.pdf.
Davies, Todd, and Gangadharan, Seeta Peña (eds.) (2009). ‘Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and
Practice’. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information Stanford.
Dunne, Anthony, and Raby, Fiona (2001). Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects. Basel: August/
Birkhäuser Verlag.
Dunne, Anthony, and Raby, Fiona (2013). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ehn, Pelle (2011). ‘Design Things: Drawing Things Together and Making Things Public’. In Technoscienza 2,
pp. 31–52.
Ehn, Pelle, Binder, Thomas, Jacucci, Giulio, Michelis, Giorgio de, Linde, Per, and Wagner, Ina (2012). ‘What is
the Object of Design?’ CHI 2012, 5–10 May 2012, Austin, TX.
Engell, Lorenz, and Siegert, Bernhard (2011). Editorial. Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung. Issue
1/11 ‘Offene Objekte’. Munich: Fink, p. 7.
Eriksen, Mette Agger (2012). ‘Material Matters in Co-designing: Formatting & Staging with Participating
Materials in Co-design Projects, Events & Situations’. Malmö University, Sweden: School of Arts and
Communications.
Fineder, Martina, and Geisler, Thomas (2011). ‘Design Clinic: Can Design Heal the World? Scrutinising Victor
Papanek’s Impact on Today’s Design Agenda’. Lecture for the congress Design Activism and Social Change.
University Barcelona, www.historiadeldisseny.org.
Fry, Tony (2011). Design as Politics. Oxford and New York: Berg.
Fry, Tony (2012). Becoming Human by Design. London and New York: Berg.
Fuad-Luke, Alastair (2009). Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World. London:
Earthscan.
Gibbons, Michael, Limoges, Camille, Nowotny, Helga, Schwartzman, Simon, Scott, Peter, and Trow, Martin
(1994). The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies.
London: Sage.
Goodman, Nelson (1978). Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing.
Gross, Alan G. (1996). The Rhetoric of Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hackney, Fiona, Glynne, Jonathan, and Minton, Viv (eds.) (2008). Networks of Design. Proceedings of the
2008 Annual International Conference of the Design History Society (UK). University College Falmouth:
Dissertation.com.
Holert, Tom (2011). Distributed Agency, Design’s Potentiality. Civic City Cahier 3. London: Bedford Press.
Holmes, Tim, Blackmore, Elena, Hawkins, Richard, and Wakeford, Tom (2011). The Common Cause Hand-
book: A Guide to Values and Frames for Campaigners, Community Organisers, Civil Servants, Fundraisers,
Educators, Social Entrepreneurs, Activists, Founders, Politicians, and Everyone in Between. Public Interest
Research Centre (PIRC), http://valuesandframes.org.
IDZ [Internationales Design Zentrum Berlin (Hrsg.)] (1970). design? Umwelt wird in Frage gestellt. Berlin: IDZ.
Ivins, William Mills (1973). On the Rationalization of Sight. New York: Plenum Press.
Jonas, Wolfgang (2000). ‘The Paradox Endeavour to Design a Foundation for a Groundless Field: Re-inventing
Design Education in the University’. International Conference, 11–13 December 2000, Perth, Australia.
Kirschner, Paul A., Buckingham-Shum, Simon J., and Carr, Chad S. (eds.) (2003). Visualizing Argumentation:
Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-Making. London: Springer (www.VisualizingArgu-
mentation.info).
Kittler, Friedrich (1985). Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900. Munich: Fink.
Konsorski-Lang, Silke, and Hampe, Michael (eds.) (2010). The Design of Material, Organism and Minds:
Different Understandings of Design. Heidelberg and Berlin: Springer.
Latour, Bruno (1986). ‘Visualisation and Cognition: Drawing Things Together.’ In Kuklick, H. (ed.). Knowledge
and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Cultures Past and Present. Vol. 6, pp. 1–40. Greenwich, CT and
London: Jai Press.
Latour, Bruno (1991). We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno (1999). ‘On Recalling ANT’. In Law, John, and Hassard, J. (eds.). Actor Network Theory and After.
Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 15–25.
Latour, Bruno (2004). ‘Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern’.
In Critical Inquiry 30, no. 2, pp. 225–48.
Latour, Bruno (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Latour, Bruno (2008a). ‘A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps toward a Philosophy of Design (with Special
Attention to Peter Sloterdijk)’. In Hackney, Glynne, and Minton (2008).
Latour, Bruno (2008b). ‘From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or How to Make Things Public’. In Latour, Bruno, and
Weibel, Peter (eds.). Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 14–41.
Latour, Bruno (2008c). ‘The Style of Matters of Concern’. Spinoza Lecture at the University of Amsterdam:
Van Gorcum.
Latour, Bruno (2010). ‘An Attempt at a “Compositionist Manifesto”’. In New Literary History 41, pp. 471–90.
Latour, Bruno, and Yaneva, Albena (2008). ‘Give Me a Gun and I Will Make All Buildings Move: An ANT’s View
of Architecture’. In Geiser, Reto (ed.). Explorations in Architecture: Teaching, Design, Research. Basel:
Birkhäuser Verlag, pp. 80–89.
Lindström, Kristina, and Ståhl, Åsa (2014). ‘Patchworking – Publics in the Making – Design, Media and Public
Engagement’. Malmö, Sweden: Malmö University, School of Arts and Communications.
Lyotard, Jean-François (1974). Economie libidinale. Paris: Les éditions de minuit.
Maldonado, Tomás (1972). Umwelt und Revolte – Zur Dialektik des Entwerfens im Spätkapitalismus. Reinbek:
Rowohlt.
Marres, Noortje (2012). Material Participation: Technology, the Environment and Everyday Publics. London:
Palgrave Macmillan.
Matt, Hubert (2010). Design der Zukunft – Eine Sondierung der Lektüre Latours, Manuskript des Vortrags
“Design der Zukunft – Versuche nach der Lektüre Latours”, 2 June 2012 Symposium Design der Zukunft an
der DHBW Ravensburg.
Miessen, Markus (2012). Albtraum Partizipation. Berlin: Merve.
Moll, Jonas Jermiin Ravn (2012). Prototyping Matters of Concern. Dissertation, Human Centred Computing,
Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/226388/
JonasMollPhD.pdf.
Nate, Richard (2009). Wissenschaft, Rhetorik und Literatur: Historische Perspektiven. Würzburg, Germany:
Königshausen & Neumann.
Neurath, Otto (1936). International Picture Language: The First Rules of Isotype. London.
Nowotny, Helga, Scott, Peter, and Gibbons, Michael (2001). Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge and the Public in
an Age of Uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Oosterling, Henk (2009). ‘Dasein as Design Or: Must Design Save the World?’ Available at:
http://www.premsela.org/sbeos/doc/le.php?nid=1673.
Osterwalder, Alexander, Pigneur, Yves, Gregory, Bernarda, and Smith, Alan (2014). Value Proposition Design:
How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. Weinheim, Germany: Wiley.
224 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN DESIGNING ‘MATTERS OF CONCERN’ (LATOUR): A FUTURE DESIGN CHALLENGE? 225
22 See ‘Umwelt und Revolte’ (Maldonado 1972), ‘Unsere Welt – Ein vernetztes System’ [Our World:
A Networked System] (Vester 1978), ‘Ecology of Mind’ (Bateson 1979), and ‘Sciences of the Articial’
(Simon 1969).
23 Some design schools promise to make superheroes of their students: ‘Design Futures: a unique inter-
disciplinary programme aimed at designers and thinkers who will shape society in the coming decades’
(University of Brighton, UK, http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/study/design-craft/design-futures).
On the downside, designers are made responsible for catastrophes as well: ‘[…] Design Futures philoso-
phy which recognises that many of the social and environmental catastrophes of the contemporary world
have been caused by design’ (Grifth University, Queensland College of Art, Australia, http://designfu-
tures.com.au/about/design-futures).
24 Test yourself at http://www.gapminder.org/ignorance.
References
Bateson, Gregory (1979). Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. Boston: E.P. Dutton.
Binder, Thomas, De Michelis, Giorgio, Ehn, Pelle, Linde, Per, Jacucci, Giulio, Wagner, Ina, and Telier, A. (2012).
‘Drawing Things Together’. In Interactions 19, no. 2, pp. 34–37.
Bjögvinsson, Erling, Ehn, Pelle, and Hillgren, Per-Anders (2012). ‘Design Things and Design Thinking:
Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges’. In Design Issues 28, no. 3 (Summer 2012), pp. 101–16.
Bonsiepe, Gui (1991). ‘Interface Interpretationen’. In form+zweck 2/3 (1991), Berlin, pp. 73–77.
Crompton, Tom (2010). ‘Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values’. Available at:
http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/common_cause_report.pdf.
Davies, Todd, and Gangadharan, Seeta Peña (eds.) (2009). ‘Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and
Practice’. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information Stanford.
Dunne, Anthony, and Raby, Fiona (2001). Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects. Basel: August/
Birkhäuser Verlag.
Dunne, Anthony, and Raby, Fiona (2013). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ehn, Pelle (2011). ‘Design Things: Drawing Things Together and Making Things Public’. In Technoscienza 2,
pp. 31–52.
Ehn, Pelle, Binder, Thomas, Jacucci, Giulio, Michelis, Giorgio de, Linde, Per, and Wagner, Ina (2012). ‘What is
the Object of Design?’ CHI 2012, 5–10 May 2012, Austin, TX.
Engell, Lorenz, and Siegert, Bernhard (2011). Editorial. Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung. Issue
1/11 ‘Offene Objekte’. Munich: Fink, p. 7.
Eriksen, Mette Agger (2012). ‘Material Matters in Co-designing: Formatting & Staging with Participating
Materials in Co-design Projects, Events & Situations’. Malmö University, Sweden: School of Arts and
Communications.
Fineder, Martina, and Geisler, Thomas (2011). ‘Design Clinic: Can Design Heal the World? Scrutinising Victor
Papanek’s Impact on Today’s Design Agenda’. Lecture for the congress Design Activism and Social Change.
University Barcelona, www.historiadeldisseny.org.
Fry, Tony (2011). Design as Politics. Oxford and New York: Berg.
Fry, Tony (2012). Becoming Human by Design. London and New York: Berg.
Fuad-Luke, Alastair (2009). Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World. London:
Earthscan.
Gibbons, Michael, Limoges, Camille, Nowotny, Helga, Schwartzman, Simon, Scott, Peter, and Trow, Martin
(1994). The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies.
London: Sage.
Goodman, Nelson (1978). Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing.
Gross, Alan G. (1996). The Rhetoric of Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hackney, Fiona, Glynne, Jonathan, and Minton, Viv (eds.) (2008). Networks of Design. Proceedings of the
2008 Annual International Conference of the Design History Society (UK). University College Falmouth:
Dissertation.com.
Holert, Tom (2011). Distributed Agency, Design’s Potentiality. Civic City Cahier 3. London: Bedford Press.
Holmes, Tim, Blackmore, Elena, Hawkins, Richard, and Wakeford, Tom (2011). The Common Cause Hand-
book: A Guide to Values and Frames for Campaigners, Community Organisers, Civil Servants, Fundraisers,
Educators, Social Entrepreneurs, Activists, Founders, Politicians, and Everyone in Between. Public Interest
Research Centre (PIRC), http://valuesandframes.org.
IDZ [Internationales Design Zentrum Berlin (Hrsg.)] (1970). design? Umwelt wird in Frage gestellt. Berlin: IDZ.
Ivins, William Mills (1973). On the Rationalization of Sight. New York: Plenum Press.
Jonas, Wolfgang (2000). ‘The Paradox Endeavour to Design a Foundation for a Groundless Field: Re-inventing
Design Education in the University’. International Conference, 11–13 December 2000, Perth, Australia.
Kirschner, Paul A., Buckingham-Shum, Simon J., and Carr, Chad S. (eds.) (2003). Visualizing Argumentation:
Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-Making. London: Springer (www.VisualizingArgu-
mentation.info).
Kittler, Friedrich (1985). Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900. Munich: Fink.
Konsorski-Lang, Silke, and Hampe, Michael (eds.) (2010). The Design of Material, Organism and Minds:
Different Understandings of Design. Heidelberg and Berlin: Springer.
Latour, Bruno (1986). ‘Visualisation and Cognition: Drawing Things Together.’ In Kuklick, H. (ed.). Knowledge
and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Cultures Past and Present. Vol. 6, pp. 1–40. Greenwich, CT and
London: Jai Press.
Latour, Bruno (1991). We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno (1999). ‘On Recalling ANT’. In Law, John, and Hassard, J. (eds.). Actor Network Theory and After.
Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 15–25.
Latour, Bruno (2004). ‘Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern’.
In Critical Inquiry 30, no. 2, pp. 225–48.
Latour, Bruno (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Latour, Bruno (2008a). ‘A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps toward a Philosophy of Design (with Special
Attention to Peter Sloterdijk)’. In Hackney, Glynne, and Minton (2008).
Latour, Bruno (2008b). ‘From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or How to Make Things Public’. In Latour, Bruno, and
Weibel, Peter (eds.). Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 14–41.
Latour, Bruno (2008c). ‘The Style of Matters of Concern’. Spinoza Lecture at the University of Amsterdam:
Van Gorcum.
Latour, Bruno (2010). ‘An Attempt at a “Compositionist Manifesto”’. In New Literary History 41, pp. 471–90.
Latour, Bruno, and Yaneva, Albena (2008). ‘Give Me a Gun and I Will Make All Buildings Move: An ANT’s View
of Architecture’. In Geiser, Reto (ed.). Explorations in Architecture: Teaching, Design, Research. Basel:
Birkhäuser Verlag, pp. 80–89.
Lindström, Kristina, and Ståhl, Åsa (2014). ‘Patchworking – Publics in the Making – Design, Media and Public
Engagement’. Malmö, Sweden: Malmö University, School of Arts and Communications.
Lyotard, Jean-François (1974). Economie libidinale. Paris: Les éditions de minuit.
Maldonado, Tomás (1972). Umwelt und Revolte – Zur Dialektik des Entwerfens im Spätkapitalismus. Reinbek:
Rowohlt.
Marres, Noortje (2012). Material Participation: Technology, the Environment and Everyday Publics. London:
Palgrave Macmillan.
Matt, Hubert (2010). Design der Zukunft – Eine Sondierung der Lektüre Latours, Manuskript des Vortrags
“Design der Zukunft – Versuche nach der Lektüre Latours”, 2 June 2012 Symposium Design der Zukunft an
der DHBW Ravensburg.
Miessen, Markus (2012). Albtraum Partizipation. Berlin: Merve.
Moll, Jonas Jermiin Ravn (2012). Prototyping Matters of Concern. Dissertation, Human Centred Computing,
Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/226388/
JonasMollPhD.pdf.
Nate, Richard (2009). Wissenschaft, Rhetorik und Literatur: Historische Perspektiven. Würzburg, Germany:
Königshausen & Neumann.
Neurath, Otto (1936). International Picture Language: The First Rules of Isotype. London.
Nowotny, Helga, Scott, Peter, and Gibbons, Michael (2001). Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge and the Public in
an Age of Uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Oosterling, Henk (2009). ‘Dasein as Design Or: Must Design Save the World?’ Available at:
http://www.premsela.org/sbeos/doc/le.php?nid=1673.
Osterwalder, Alexander, Pigneur, Yves, Gregory, Bernarda, and Smith, Alan (2014). Value Proposition Design:
How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. Weinheim, Germany: Wiley.
226 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN RAPID PROTOTYPING POLITICS: DESIGN AND THE DE-MATERIAL TURN 227
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RAPID PROTOTYPING POLITICS:
DESIGN AND THE DE-MATERIAL TURN
Matthew Ward
Introduction: The De-Material Turn
Over the last two decades, design as a discipline has focused less on the production
and manufacture of material things and become more concerned with immaterial
or ephemeral interactions. The role of the designer has been rigorously debated
and questioned, in part due to the rise of specialisms such as Interaction Design,
User Experience Design, and Service Design (Press and Cooper 2003; Danish De
sign-
ers Manifesto 2010; Inns 2010). Coinciding with this de-material turn in design prac-
tice, we have seen a ‘material and speculative turn’ throughout the humanities,
whereby power and political agency are attributes of non-human entities – conjur-
ing a world, in Jane Bennett’s words, of ‘vibrant matter’ (Bennett 2010).
The ‘material turn’ has been expanded through different disciplines, from
philosophy (Bryant, Srnicek, and Harman 2011) and cultural studies (Bennett and
Joyce 2013) to anthropology (Hicks 2010), and reaffirms an examination of the ma-
terial domain as essential for our understanding of current political and economic
realities. This ‘turn’ moves us beyond a conceptualisation of the world as socially or
technologically deterministic, towards a networked distribution of agency.
A world of distributive agency, where material entities are recognised actors
that ‘make the difference’ and ‘make things happen’ (Bennett 2010: 9), naturally
calls into question the role of design. Moving design from a politics of production
to a production of politics calls for a radical rethink of the educational modes and
frameworks built over the last century. This chapter examines the role of design in
shaping, prototyping, and manipulating the political terrain and considers how ed-
ucators might equip the next generation of designers with the appropriate ethos,
mindset, tools, and techniques to survive and flourish in this new complex context.
In order to build a clearer picture of what I mean by the de-material turn, I look
to design thinking as an exemplar of a sub-discipline that evolved without a material
basis. With its history in the design science movement of the 1970s (Cross 2001) and
its more recent adoption into innovation and business studies (Kimbell 2011), de-
sign thinking has been developed and deployed as a series of tools and methods
outside the traditional mediums of design:
Design thinking as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to
match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business
strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity. (Brown 2008)
004 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN CONTENTS 005
Design and Social Change:
The Changing Environment of
a Discipline in Flux 134
Gesche Joost and Andreas Unteidig
Human Systems Design:
A New Direction for Practice 149
Victor Margolin
Designing for Sustainable Development:
Industrial Ecology, Sustainable Development,
and Social Innovation 166
Gavin Melles
Mobility Peak: Scenes from a Deceleration 177
Stephan Rammler
Transformation Design:
A Social- Ecological Perspective 188
Bernd Sommer and Harald Welzer
Designing ‘Matters of Concern’ (Latour):
A Future Design Challenge? 202
Peter Friedrich Stephan
Rapid Prototyping Politics:
Design and the De-Material Turn 227
Matthew Ward
Collective Metamorphosis:
A Combinatorial Approach to
Transformation Design 246
John Wood
Transformation Design as ‘Hero’s Journey’ 263
Sarah Zerwas
Authors 277
CONTENTS
Foreword BIRD 007
Introduction 009
Wolfgang Jonas / Sarah Zerwas / Kristof von Anshelm
Transformation Design Starts with People
Dreaming: Designers and Theatre Makers
Design Utopias for Major Transformation.
An Essay 023
Kristof von Anshelm
Transformation Design:
A Piecemeal Situational Change 033
Nicolas Beucker
Deep Involvement:
On Transformation Processes Related
to the RhyCycling Project 043
Flavia Caviezel
Transformation Design:
Creating Security and Well-Being 061
Caroline L. Davey and Andrew B. Wootton
Owls to Athens, or: The Discrete Charm
of Transformation Design. An Essay 075
Michael Erlhoff
Could Design Help to Promote and Build
Empathic Processes in Prison? Understanding
the Role of Empathy and Design in Catalysing
Social Change and Transformation 083
Lorraine Gamman and Adam Thorpe
Approaching Our Dog:
Transformation Design – An Attempt 101
Franziska Holzner
Social Transformation Design as a
Form of Research Through Design (RTD):
Some Historical, Theoretical,
and Methodological Remarks 114
Wolfgang Jonas
004 TRANS FORMATION DESIGN CONTENTS 005
Design and Social Change:
The Changing Environment of
a Discipline in Flux 134
Gesche Joost and Andreas Unteidig
Human Systems Design:
A New Direction for Practice 149
Victor Margolin
Designing for Sustainable Development:
Industrial Ecology, Sustainable Development,
and Social Innovation 166
Gavin Melles
Mobility Peak: Scenes from a Deceleration 177
Stephan Rammler
Transformation Design:
A Social- Ecological Perspective 188
Bernd Sommer and Harald Welzer
Designing ‘Matters of Concern’ (Latour):
A Future Design Challenge? 202
Peter Friedrich Stephan
Rapid Prototyping Politics:
Design and the De-Material Turn 227
Matthew Ward
Collective Metamorphosis:
A Combinatorial Approach to
Transformation Design 246
John Wood
Transformation Design as ‘Hero’s Journey’ 263
Sarah Zerwas
Authors 277
CONTENTS
Foreword BIRD 007
Introduction 009
Wolfgang Jonas / Sarah Zerwas / Kristof von Anshelm
Transformation Design Starts with People
Dreaming: Designers and Theatre Makers
Design Utopias for Major Transformation.
An Essay 023
Kristof von Anshelm
Transformation Design:
A Piecemeal Situational Change 033
Nicolas Beucker
Deep Involvement:
On Transformation Processes Related
to the RhyCycling Project 043
Flavia Caviezel
Transformation Design:
Creating Security and Well-Being 061
Caroline L. Davey and Andrew B. Wootton
Owls to Athens, or: The Discrete Charm
of Transformation Design. An Essay 075
Michael Erlhoff
Could Design Help to Promote and Build
Empathic Processes in Prison? Understanding
the Role of Empathy and Design in Catalysing
Social Change and Transformation 083
Lorraine Gamman and Adam Thorpe
Approaching Our Dog:
Transformation Design – An Attempt 101
Franziska Holzner
Social Transformation Design as a
Form of Research Through Design (RTD):
Some Historical, Theoretical,
and Methodological Remarks 114
Wolfgang Jonas
... Reinstating community emotions and values through the design of experience allows for the activation and revitalisation of endangered cultural heritage. As the value situates the heritage as a part of the participant's cultural identity, the concern evoked might drive them towards taking action (Stephen, 2015). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The recent attention towards cultural preservation and heritage studies has positioned design to redefine cultural experiences in the contemporary context. Against this backdrop, design is marked by an ability to transform and revitalise cultural practices to change and alter perceptions, generate and disseminate knowledge, and create new value through the curation of experience. A case-study on temple architecture in Tamil Nadu, India presents the tensions posed by globalisation to discuss and explore the development of design tools, evaluation of the design process, and the creation of a design-based framework for intangible culture and heritage. This paper introduces a future mode for designing cultural experiences through community engagement by identifying four key design principles guiding the preservation and sustainability of endangered cultural traditions, practices, and spaces.
... El doctorado se quiere orientar en la línea de estimular los procesos de innovación tecnológica, para fortalecer a los procesos de transición y autonomía. Por otra parte, en América Latina, impulsada por la denominada economía informal, la ergonomía debe permitir comprender los «asuntos de interés» (Matters of Concern), como lo formula Bruno Latour (Stephan, 2015) y valorar tanto lo positivo, como lo que enseña la economía popular frente a las condiciones de trabajo y vida. ...
... This research is categorized in design research studies and utilizes the socio-technical point of view and the actor-network theory as its basis. ANT provides analytical methods to observe and deconstruct the function of the actors in the community and can track architects and designers (Stephan, 2015). Networkbased research structures are bottom-up such that the research begins from actors and the prefabricated structures are not previously defined. ...
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Problem statement: Architectural co-design has been facilitated through the development of digitalism. This has shifted to a new paradigm which has evolved the understanding of design process. As a result, design process has been changed in both technical and philosophical aspects and co-design, consequently, has acknowledged The Other in the design process. Accordingly, design is formed by interaction of at least two simultaneous networks. Research objectives: This paper aims to focus on design as a socio-technical process by analyzing dimensions of actors, quality of network dialogue and the process of network in co-design. Research methods: The Actor-Network Theory is applied to study the actors of co-design process. The quality of network dialogues is examined by analyzing texts and different types of networks and their impact on design process are determined by comparing two co-design cases. Thus, the paper is using a qualitative approach to redefine each node in the design process. Conclusion: Different actors, human and non-human ones, shape the overall interactions of co-designers. Using network approach as a theoretical base for this interaction, revealed four main elements in the design process: acceptability of The Other, criticism-tolerance, sharing personality, and collective intentionality. On the other hand, results from the two co-design case studies demonstrated insights on socio-technical approach of design and its impacts on other co-designer’s network relationship.
... That is, we treat it as a "hard system", one that most people can agree on the objective -system as designed. These are generally regarded as indisputable, stubborn, and simply there [6]. ...
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For ergonomics to create real change, it needs to address the immediate technical problem to be solved as well as the human, organizational, and societal context of the change. This contribution presents a qualitative-interpretative analysis that reflects on vignettes from real life experiences. These cases will create sketches that will be familiar to ergonomists and change agents in organizations. Using this storytelling format, we will convert the focus of analysis from traditional change strategies to this broader conceptualization of systems. This will include questions about the journey (history) to the scenario, the actors’ motivations, agendas, agency and the organizational causes. Defining matters of fact (MoF) and matters of concern (MoC) is similar to accident investigation analysis as they define proximal and distal causation to the event. The paper suggests a way to conceptualize these contextual variables into the ergonomics change process.
... Es decir, esto lleva a pensar en una desmaterialización del proceso de diseño no-centrado en objetos. Para Stephan (2015) este nuevo reto de Latour surge de sus estudios en ciencia y tecnología a través de los cuales se destaca que las nuevas formas de dibujo florentino del renacimiento contribuyeron, en su momento, al impulso de la ciencia y la tecnología, no sólo de esas áreas en sí sino también al desarrollo de un gran número de métodos y procesos de visualización que han permitido la innovación. Por lo tanto, el reto de no enfocarse en los objetos que la humanidad necesitamatters of fact-y redirigir los esfuerzos a los problemas que afectan o preocupan a la humanidad -matters of concern -provocaría idealmente también una revolución de métodos y soluciones similar a la que el enfoque centrado en los objetos produjo. ...
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Este capítulo presenta el Diseño del Futuro como tendencia en las disciplinas del diseño a través de la revisión de algunos de los principales autores que han abordado esta perspectiva. La tendencia destaca entre otros aspectos la necesidad de un cambio de enfoque, dejar de lado el diseño de objetos centrados en la forma, para buscar hacer frente a problemas sociales mediante el diseño de sistemas, estrategias y rutas, para lo cual se plantea el uso del diseño de escenarios entre otras herramientas y se destaca la importancia del diseño colaborativo. Finalmente, el documento concluye con algunas visiones que reflexionan sobre cómo abordar esta perspectiva desde las aulas, además de las competencias que los estudiantes requerirían para hacerlo. El presente es un recorrido por distintos puntos de vista que comparten la preocupación por un futuro incierto, con grandes problemas, pero que se podría diseñar si se toma como proyecto de diseño y se atiende desde la actualidad.
... As an answer we present the concept of concerns based on the distinction of "matters of concern" and "matters of fact" that was first introduced by french sociologist Bruno Latour (Latour, 2004(Latour, , 2005(Latour, , 2008. This concept was picked up with some adoptions to make it work in design (Stephan, 2015). A concern can be anything that you care about strongly enough to influence your behaviour and decisions. ...
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Questioning the next evolutionary level of organizations and society means to turn to transformation and anticipation. Transformation Design (TD) explores design's potential to shape the future of organizations and society. Designers. accepting this mission face tasks that challenge traditional design methodology and ask for new foundations. TD is defined as an upstream process in contrast to the downstream process of " design for social change ". As a contribution to define the foundations of TD two concepts are discussed: anticipation and " concerns " , a concept taken from Actor Network Theory – ANT and adjusted to meet designer's needs. TD sets out to overcome the bias of critical and affirmative design and build a new perspective for designers and consultants.
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Using Latour's Actor Network Theory, (ANT) this paper aims to investigate why select non-humans are afforded more autonomy than others, and how the heightened agency of these select things could be positively utilized by designers, through an analysis of Berlin's infamous Würmchenmuster pattern.
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This project focuses on ongoing research “The impact of contemporary graphic communication on the urban landscape. Approach to downtown Aguascalientes”, based on the fact that graphic communication is integral to the urban fabric of the city and is part of its landscape impact that influences, either to the detriment or improvement in public space, but always having an impact on the identity development. Visual urban communication is analyzed visually from graphic design and anthropology, considering that visual discourse is a communication bridge for the identity of a place, which allows production in the design market.
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Obwohl Design heute alle Bereiche unseres Lebens prägt, ist das Thema in der Philosophie bislang eher stiefmütterlich behandelt worden. Dieser Band möchte die Debatte um die Relevanz und den Sinn von Design innerhalb wie außerhalb der Philosophie befördern. Die pointierten und meinungsfreudigen Beiträge von knapp 20 namhaften Philosoph_innen stecken das Diskursfeld einer philosophischen Designtheorie neu ab - eine Tour d'Horizon und schon jetzt ein Standardwerk.
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This book develops a fresh perspective on everyday forms of engagement, one that foregrounds the role of objects, technologies and settings in democracy. Examining a range of devices, from smart meters to eco-homes, the book sets out new concepts and methods for analyzing the relations between participation, innovation and the environment.
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Wenn man sich etwas intensiver — und das heißt nicht nur theoretisch, sondern auch experimentell — mit den Grundfunktionen der Technik und auf der anderen Seite mit den Grundfunktionen lebender Systeme beschäftigt, so zeigt eine Gegenüberstellung sehr bald, daß die Natur im Grunde voller Technik steckt, ja der vielzitierte Gegensatz zwischen Natur und Technik eigentlich gar nicht existiert. Sobald wir die Technik in ihrer fächerübergreifenden Rolle sehen, in ihrer Funktion innerhalb eines überlebensfähigen Systems, dann läßt sich eine solche Technik auch wieder gegenüber der Umwelt vertreten.
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Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In "Speculative Everything," Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be -- to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again. Instead, Dunne and Raby pose "what if" questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want). "Speculative Everything" offers a tour through an emerging cultural landscape of design ideas, ideals, and approaches. Dunne and Raby cite examples from their own design and teaching and from other projects from fine art, design, architecture, cinema, and photography. They also draw on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology, and literary fiction. They show us, for example, ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant; a flypaper robotic clock; a menstruation machine; a cloud-seeding truck; a phantom-limb sensation recorder; and devices for food foraging that use the tools of synthetic biology. Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more -- about everything -- reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures. © 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.