BSA Seminar: design and ‘the social’

Design and ‘the Social’: Mapping new Approaches to Inequality in Design

Welcome by Prof Mike Savage (LSE)
Chairs: Dr Liz Moor and Prof Angela McRobbie

Organised by Mona Sloane and Nell Beecham, LSE Sociology

This event looked to map out the contemporary social science research and thinking into design in order to explore how designers operate as social theorists, actors and activists. It aimed to engage with the current and politically pressing debate on social inequality while negotiating the specificities of design as a profession that is both creative and commercial.

‘Design’ is a term that is gaining momentum in social science research, with new works engaging with the term emerging in anthropology (Gunn et al 2015), cultural studies (Kimbell 2011; McRobbie 2016), science and technology studies (Farias & Wilkie 2016) and philosophy (Parsons 2015). These important works explore how actors operate in wider cultural and economic fields. Seemingly missing from this picture is a critical engagement with the ways in which designers theorise, engage with, and act upon notions of ‘the social’ and how these may challenge or reaffirm (social) ‘inequality’. Designers are tasked with speculating about not only user-design interactions, but future ways of living. In other words, designers engage in ‘sociological’ practices, putting a range of ‘classificatory systems’ (Tyler 2015) to work in order to make sense of and design for people. ‘Classing’ people as part of this commercial and ‘sociological work’ is not only socially intentional, but consequential. It can, therefore, reaffirm or challenge ‘inequality’ beyond the notions of ‘class’ and ‘capital’ (Bourdieu 1986). 


13.30-14.00  Registration and Coffee

14.00-14.05  Opening: Mona Sloane, LSE Sociology, Co-Organiser

14.05-14.20  Welcome: Prof Mike Savage, Co-Director International Inequalities Institute

Session I

Chair: Prof Angela McRobbie, Professor of Communications, Goldsmiths College

14.20-14.40 Dr Evangelia Chrysikou, University College London: The Social Invisibility of Mental Health Facilities: Understanding Social Exclusion through Art and Architecture

14.40-15.00 Ellen K Foster, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Claims of Equity and Expertise: Feminist Interventions in the Design of DIY Communities and Cultures

15.00-15.20 Nitin Bathla, Researcher and Social Designer, Delhi: Autoprogettazione as a Social Project

15.20-15.40 Discussion

15.40-15.50 Dr Adam Kaasa, Director Theatrum Mundi, LSE: The Politics of Design

15.50-16.05 Coffee Break

Session II

Chair: Dr Liz Moor, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College

16.05-16.25 Dr Dimitrios Charitatos, Democritus University: Pauperized Luxury Design and Economic Crisis

16.25-16.45 Dr Smita Yadav, University of Sussex: Redesigning Social Inequality, Modern Infrastructure, and Social Mobility in India

16.45-17.05 Fani Kostourou, University College London: Mass Factory Housing: Design and Social Reform

17.05-17.15 Discussion

17.15-17.30 Break

17.30-18.25   Key Note: Dr Lucy Kimbell, Director of the Innovations Insights Hub, University of the Arts London

18.25-18.30 Closing: Nell Beecham, LSE Sociology, Co-Organiser

18.30-19.30 Reception, ‘The George IV’, 28 Portugal St, London WC2A 2HE