In design as in politics: who decides?

Joan Subirats at Open Democracy: “Can we keep on organizing decision-making processes as we used to do in the age of the Enlightenment or in a scenario where information only flows from top to bottom? Designers and creators have been questioning this for a long time now, seeking to go beyond the user paradigm which has determined innovation processes in recent decades. Today, their concern is how to put people at the center of new experiences…..

Today, in the world of design, emphasis is being placed on the fact that all those who will want or will be able to use a product or service should be incorporated into the creative process itself. On the other hand, science has shown that we cannot imagine designing a building or constructing an infrastructure without taking into account the materials we use, the impact on the surroundings, and the effects on the environment and on the functioning of the city where the new building is located or the new service is to come into operation. The building, the infrastructure “participates” in a complex environment than cannot be ignored. The design of any object or activity is not immune to all that is around it and to the materials used to build or imagine it – nor is its destruction or disappearance. The design of “things” cannot be only a framework in which participants are to be assumed as data, the design itself has to be “participated”.

In this sense, designers cannot avoid being participants, just as politicians cannot avoid being citizens. In the same way as you cannot complain about a traffic jam where you find yourself stuck as if the whole problem was due to others, for the simple reason that you are part of this traffic and this jam. We need design and policy-making systems that do not have designers sitting in a bubble, seemingly immune to what goes on outside. We need political decision-making systems that invite-incite-engage people, rather than processes that ask people to participate in what others have thought needs to be done. And, surely, to do this, we need a little more humility when it comes to doing politics – and this implies changing power structures and the distribution of responsibilities. In the face of ever more complex problems, with more structural implications and more heterogeneous interests, we need a reconfiguration and an expansion of collective decision-making mechanisms…. (More) (Español).”