Design: producing new social technologies 

DESIGN

 

THINK: Over the last century, humanity has become a geophysical force which is altering the earth's natural systems (Steffan et al, 2015). Many scientists refer to this as the Great Acceleration of human enterprise, which has pushed the earth into a new geological era called the Anthropocene. In the Anthropocene, the barriers between geographical, ecological, social, technological, biological and psychological spaces are being eroded. Human infrastructure such as roads, bridges and buildings are becoming part of the earth's geological layers. Digital interfaces are mobilised across specific geographical spaces, and are able to track the flows of food, water and population across continents. New media enable engineering concepts to be designed, assembled and quickly implemented in response to unforeseen disasters. Machines with being fused living tissue, and hybrid life-forms are being created by splicing genetic materials. Scientist are even exploring the possibilities of 'engineering' the Earth's climate to address global warming and other issues associated with climate change. 

 

On the one hand, we are faced with a world of increasing uncertainty, complexity and risk associated with climate change, overpopulation and scarcity of resources, among many other grave concerns. On the other hand, we are equipped as never before with an increasing range of technologies which can effectively operate within complex social and ecological systems. This means that design, architecture and engineering are practices can which play a crucial role in our capacity to respond to a rapidly changing world. The question remains: will these practices be used to replicate 'business as usual' responses to identifiable problems? Or, will they become flexible and innovative enough to respond to the wicked (emergent, paradoxical and indeterminate) problems of the Anthropocene epoch?