Designing (Re)Activism: The Semantic Value of Artefacts in Discursive Design

By M. Federica Pesce.

Published by The International Journal of Designed Objects

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In this paper we aim at investigating categories of product design in terms of cultural communication by exploring artefacts conceived with the intent of encouraging users’ reflection upon “conflict” issues. Under this light, we have chosen case studies referring to those conflicts in which walls and fences are still separating populations from one another, as for Palestine, Mexico, etc. The conflict is here read as an event that is able to encode expectations of emancipation, and because of that it becomes central for articulating significant transitions. Such artefacts, rather than for their functionality or utility, might be interpreted through the Stephanie and Bruce Tharp theory of discursive design, where objects are treated like transmitters of ideas and messages. We believe that discursive design can be a good starting point for better understanding the value of the semantic content spread by objects within time and space, and that artefacts can be considered as specific agents of communication. Therefore, if we consider objects as communicative facts, then we can use tools taken from the field of logics and linguistics in order to analyse the semantic and the cultural length of the objects themselves. As a consequence, politically engaged design tends to broaden the role of designers into an intellectual one, being able to boost debates around the issues designers trigger.

Keywords: Politically Engaged Design, Discursive Design, Conflicts, Wall, Social Design

The International Journal of Designed Objects, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.77-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.730MB).

Dr. M. Federica Pesce

Researcher, Melting Pro. Laboratorio per la cultura, Rome, Italy

Federica Pesce is working as project manager for activities related to the valorisation of the cultural heritage and education. She mainly focuses on methodologies and processes enabling transformation of the information into knowledge. Education: PHD in Industrial Design, Arts and New Technologies (La Sapienza, Rome) with a thesis on activism design that brings togehter her interests shown along the years:language, object meaningfulness and political committement; Advanced Studies Master in Artificial Intelligence, Option Cognitive Science, hold in Leuven, Belgium (KUL); Degree in Philosophy (La Sapienza, Rome).