The Undergraduate Degree in Industrial Design Engineering organizes this lecture, in which Ron Wakkary will talk about his book Things We Could Design for more than Human-Centered Worlds (MIT Press, 2021), where he investigates an unbuilding of design to better cohabit our world with species and matter that are not human. Wakkary weaves together posthumanist philosophies with designing things, nonhumans made by designers, to argue for a relational and expansive design based on humility and cohabitation. He describes ways to mediate and care for the inevitable politics of things, and ways to gather to deliberate on design with more than human participation. He calls this approach designing-with.
Wakkary describes how humans and things are fundamental to each other, giving a lot of power to designers. But he also describes the agentic qualities of nonhumans that make things vital on their own and capable of transforming the world on their own. This decenters human designers such that they share the design stage with nonhumans. As a result, it is impossible to see designers as exclusively human. Wakkary proposes that the role of human designers is to foster an ethical cohabitation with things across overlapping terrains and concerns. To support these new responsibilities, he offers new concepts like biographies and constituencies as structures for designing-with. The lecture engages a range of philosophies and theories for design while also discussing a wide range of design products, artifacts, objects, and things we could design.