Welcome to Pluri readings

We introduce new element in our "curriculum as making curriculum" - book reviews, essays, poems and exploratory texts by Pluri learners.

Tony Fry: "Design Futuring" (Bloomsbury, 2009)

Summary and reflection by Zane Karīna Kalēja

" To be we have to be another way ." Tony Fry

Tony Fry sees design directly linked and intertwined with humankind as the anthropocentrism being the current state of the world right now. In his book, he argues that design practice as it currently stands is not only ineffective, but has become a major contributor to our unsustainable lives. He calls for a complete reconceptualisation of the practice of design. He defies our understanding of fundamentals such as “design” which is currently devalued to superficial levels that regards on only appearance and performance. He stands for an action that design practice must ‘fundamentally change – it has to be redesigned.’ (Fry, 2009: 26) and it is this redesigned design practice, that can lead us to a new form of living, one that is ‘sustain-able’.

At its core Design Futuring is about humanity, and more specifically, how design can contribute to the continuation of humanity. Fry wants to change how design is taught in schools, how the public perceives the profession that provides the objects they cover and consume, and most importantly, he wants designers to transform how they define and practice design.

All human beings are designers. Designing is a quality of the human created structured world we inhabit. It exposes that designing is an active characteristic of everything we take to be given within the unnatural world we are born into. As such, we come to be what we are not just genetically prefigured but equally as a character of the artificially fabricated world into which we arrive. The thing is that while we always have been prefigured (that is designed) as soon as we start to modify and play with our environment, we began to form a practice that were to structure what we were to become. It is the very time to expand our view on how design is understood, practiced and what it is mobilized for and against.

What we make we also destroy. Whenever we bring something into being we also destroy something. This relation between creation and destruction is not a problem when a resource is renewable, but it’s a disaster when it is not (Fry, 2009: 4).

In order to bring change to life, Fry unfolds pillars of design practice as one that is going to make a change. First, we get to know our practice. To comprehend habitus so formed and framed by the human coming into being via the practice of self- and world making, is to open ourselves to seeing design in two ways - as structuring both: (1) features of the world in which we dwell; and (2) many of our material and immaterial relation to this world. It is practice, as designed and designing, as manifesting our active being-in-the-world, which dissolves the binary relation between being structured and structuring (Fry, 2009: 25). To understand this situation is to grasp that design practice cannot simply add 'sustainable practices' onto its flawed foundations. Rather, the nature of design practice has to fundamentally change - it has to be redesigned. These remarks return us to considering the relations between making and action, but in proximity to an engagement with praxis (Fry, 2009: 27).

Second, we learn to redirect practice. It elevates the seriousness, importance and future potential of design. What redirective practice enables is a practical transformation of knowledge in action (Fry, 2009: 5). This means that changes in one’s life needs to be done. Commitment to sustainment needs to be done by taking care what one buys, the amount of non-renewable energy one uses, the kind of work one chooses to do, how one cares for self, beings around and environment one lives in, it all becomes practice of one’s self redirection. Redirection is asking for a new kind of design leadership, creating new knowledge by gathering old towards sustain-ability. If we talk about becoming a redirective practitioner it requires gathering emotional resources to deal with the sense of loss and insecurity coming from elimination of one’s own professional life. Also, it takes courage to seek those paths that are not yet known or even making the path one’s own in order to open up a space for making a change to do differently (Fry, 2009: 175).

In order to maintain the free pathway for accessible change, we have to hold on to the statement that Fry undercuts in his book as misconception that individual actions count for a little when measured against the “state of the world”, because the point of such action is not about saving the whole planet but rather initiating those ontological changes that establish the self as a change agent committed to sustainment on one’s own daily basis and in communities actions around. Community is indivisible from all the other conditions of our dependence. As such, it needs to be seen within the same frame of futuring, for it provides the collective with a sense of continuity that transcends the measure of mortality that existentially inhibits an ability to see beyond a life-time (Fry, 2009: 114). Without a community there is not much far we can go. Community's destruction is every bit as much a part of the unsustainable as is damage to the planet's climatic system, rainforests or coral reefs.

Going back to the line at the very beginning of this summary, where Fry declares that in order “to be” we have to be another way its crucial to direct this line towards design futuring where future needs to be circumstantially and critically responsive to the minds, dreams, feelings, material conditions, dispositions, values and beliefs of people within the world they inhabit. At it’s most obvious, futuring means giving self (as the embodied mind acting in the world) a future. This turns in two directions: first, towards the being and care of the self (which implies keeping 'it' nourished and healthy in body, mind and spirit) and second, towards the care of the conditions in which the self is in being. Just as the body and mind defy a dualist division, so also does the division of the self (as a being) and its being-in-the-world (Fry, 2009: 101).

Tony Fry: "Becoming Human by Design" (Bloomsbury, 2012)

Summary and reflection by Dārta Sakārne

" However, what has to be imagined is what can and has to be designed. This itself is a designing." Tony Fry

The author Tony Fry states that the speed at which changes are approaching us is faster than we biologically could prepare and adapt. Book “Becoming human by design” not only confronts the most unavoidable and fundamental issue concerning that, that issue being us - humans - an epicenter of the whole unsustainability and how we came to being that issue, but it also provokes us to rethink what is that we need to become in order to sustain ourselves while being at the threshold of extinction. Therefore, how we as an (unsustainable) species continue is a question that begs understanding. Because just by understanding it, we can overcome ourselves and after that, overcome unsustainability. Therefore, these main questions Fry uses as umbrella questions to examine the web of how we came to be as we are today:

What are we actually before ourselves?

● How has design made us what we are?

● What is that we need to become (by design)?

By putting (ontological) design in the center of this becoming map, Fry posits the significance of tools. We use tools to make things, but in return, they make us. Simply explaining that the artist, writer, musician, cabinetmaker, politician, surgeon, chef, welder and so on would not be what they are without the object-things that have enabled them to become what they are. What we create and, both metaphorically and figuratively speaking, in return makes us. Therefore, the awareness of what we are making and what this being made in the environment (inner and outer) by this act is an urgent need.

One of the tools being touched upon is history, which is, if not one of the most potent design instruments, that determine how we see and understand the world around us and ourselves. One of the historical elements being the Enlightenment project. A lot of answers about why the modern mind today is how it is can be found in this project. Enlightenment established and enhanced anthropocentrism bonded to an economy based on the attempt to dominate nature. ‘Natural selection’ and ‘natural law’ started classifying humans by certain look and behavior criteria– wearing clothes, not painting the body, not practicing wild rituals etc., which in turn created discriminations that we are still dealing with today.

“And still, while in the context of every day, our animality still remains concealed.”

The fact that we are being named Homo Sapiens (a knowing being) is a conceit of our being. Although by naming that we know “the world” we cheat ourselves. Fry implies that a need to know is a purely human need. One could argue that what an animal lacks of world, we lack of environment. As Francois Lyotard says “we are educated into humanity”, therefore, perhaps his idea that we are not human at all, but inhuman in a masquerade doesn’t seem so crazy after all. But as Fry implies that although we cannot escape our historicity as it constitutes memory and experience, the acknowledgment that we are anthropocentric is very much needed. This acknowledgment creates that profound existential difference between humans.

“The world and the idea of the world are not the same things.”

It also goes in hand with our world-making within the world that is being mentioned in this book. Although Tony Fry manifests that “the world is our home,” he also reminds us that just because we can create our own, mainly isolated, worlds-within-the-world doesn’t mean we dominate them. That needs to be understood. We still need to continue to make them, but the question is with what mindset and values. Those values are rooted in process and conditional project “Sustainment,” which ontologically needs to become sovereign.

To become that.

To be.

“However, what has to be imagined is what can and has to be designed. This itself is a designing”

Some things that Fry encounters that need to be created to move towards Sustainment are:

● tools that encourage getting rid of human-centredness;

● a shift from quantity to quality;

● third epoch - unsettlement;

● a long view;

● questions that inform the action of designing toward or away from their answers;

● ontological education.

More to be found between the lines of the book “Becoming human by design” by Tony Fry.