On June 18, I’ll make my annual pilgrimage to Detroit for the Allied Media Conference (AMC). I call it a pilgrimage in all seriousness — this point in space and time holds immense political, creative, and emotional significance for me. It has introduced to me the concept of “media-based organizing,” which has fundamentally shifted how I approach my life’s work as a socially engaged designer. As Allied Media Projects defines it,
Media-based organizing is a process of speaking and listening, as a community, in order to get to the roots of the problems that shape our realities, imagine other realities and then work together to make them real. It allows us to build new kinds of relationships internally and interpersonally; to transform ourselves and the structures of power around us simultaneously. Through media-based organizing we shift from consumers of information to producers, from objects within narratives of exploitation and violence to authors of the transformation of our worlds.
I used to consider my role in social movements as one of a supporting actor, providing labour and products so the “real” work of mobilizing masses and awareness-raising could happen. That has changed quite a bit since my first AMC in 2010. The visionary approaches I’m now in conversation with have shaped my practices as well my understanding of the role I play in this work — I now see my task as providing contexts and tools for people to collaboratively to redesign their realities.
I’ve presented design-related sessions at the last three AMCs — some might remember Radical Typography, Making Revolutionary Videogames with Verbs, and Powerful Graphics and Imaging Software 101. This year, I’m excited to be part of the coordinating team for the new Future Design Lab, a design-focused practice space at the AMC and an evolution of last year’s DiscoTech Lab, which itself was an evolution of the Media Lab. It responds to a need we sensed for design and the design methodology to have a larger presence at the AMC. Here’s the description:
What should our future look like? Throughout the AMC, we reimagine and reinvent our collective worlds as more just and sustainable places. The Future Design Lab will be a space to map out these alternative visions of the future and begin making them into realities. We will experiment with speculative design and technology to show with clarity and elegance how we get from where we are to where we want to be. We will prove that alternative futures are desirable, crucial, and within reach. We will draw from design, communications and technology to collectively respond to the question “What should the future look like?” Participants will be invited to brainstorm, sketch and prototype ideas using analog and digital tools to begin building that future. The resulting drawings, mind-maps, graphics and technologies will be exhibited throughout the AMC and will be collected and published following the conference.
And to be clear, we’re not here for the designer-as-hero narrative, we’re not discussing slick NGO makeovers, and we’re not interested in design that attacks old structures if it doesn’t also help us build new worlds. We want to focus on co-design principles and visionary creativity, on iterating on models that are working for our communities and making speculative designs that help us share glimpses of the other world that’s possible.
And here are the sessions! Come join us in imagining and creating alternate realities!
- What is the Future of Design for Social Justice?
- Future Landscapes
- Designing Cultures of Resistance
- Building The Other World That’s Possible
- Nanny Van: A Co-Design Case Study
- DIY Game Controllers
- Subverting The Algorithm
- Co-Designing Our Cities
- Demystifying Code
- All Hands On: Future Design
- Research Justice Data Visualization
- Making Makerspaces
- Build a Website with OpenAid
- Speculative Object Design For New Futures [not officially listed but it’s happening!]
Get in on this!
Love to my co-coordinators, Nina Bianchi, Andy Gunn, Victoria Barnett, and Ben Leon.