Interactive Institute at the Stockholm Futures Conference on Sustainability

1 November, 2010 - 13:12

What is the role of design research and futures studies in a sustainable society? At the Stockholm Futures Conference, Ramia Mazé and Basar Önal from the Interactive Institute will discuss such questions.

CESC (Centre for Sustainable Communications) and fms (Environmental Strategies Research) at the Royal Institute of Technology organizes the international Stockholm Futures Conference together with the Institute for Futures Studies. Attendance is free but registration is required.

Ramia and Basar will give an invited presentation entitled 'Hands on the Future: Design Research and Sustainability'.


Design is a powerful and persuasive force in shaping
society, and has been part of driving and developing many of the values and
practices in our contemporary consumer culture and daily lifestyles. As we try
to better understand the effects of design – especially how it relates to
effecting more sustainable ways of living – design research has incorporated
theories and methods from the social sciences and the humanities.
Human-centered design, for example, incorporates methods for understanding
social, cultural and human experience, in order to design products and systems
that satisfy needs and solve problems. However, these approaches are limited in
some significant ways, for example with respect to considering aspects of
‘futurity’. Furthermore, if sustainable design requires us to anticipate
radically different futures, then it may also requires different approaches to
thinking and doing research.

In this paper, we reflect upon such limits through examples
of our practice-based design research in the area of sustainability. The
Switch! ‘Energy Futures’ project is presented as a case study that points to the
capacity of design materials and methods to enable ‘hands on’ experience of
possible futures and participatory debate about radical change. We argue that
design is fundamentally about the future – about the future use, effects and
risks of designed things – which implies common concerns and substantial
synergies between the fields of futures studies and design research.

 Image credit: Switch! Energy Futures project team