PhD research week 20

exupery quote

The main event of this week was the talk of PROFESSOR EZIO MANZINI at Central Saint Martins on "THE EMERGING QUALITIES: THE CULTURAL SIDE OF SOCIAL INNOVATION"
Ezio Manzini is one of the main references for my research and I was very happy for his lecture at CSM - The emerging qualities: the cultural side of social innovation.  He described social innovation initiatives as “ideas that work in solving social problems, in socially relevant ways”.   (for example car-sharing, communal kitchens, community supported agriculture, the sharing economy...)

Within the food sector, he believes there is the mainstream - and there is something else (or the beginning of something else.) This “something else” is constructed by active collaborative people - not individual, passive people.  He clearly explain his perspective that “people choose innovative solutions because they LIKE and NEED them” Within social innovation for sustainability, people will not participate in taking certain actions although they might be beneficial for them, because they don't enjoy doing them.  So it is a key factor to come up with solutions that people will enjoy participating in.  Through active participation for new solutions people generate new “organizations”.  And in this process they create new “meanings.”

Ezio Manzini describes cultural innovation as “ideas that work in  creating new meanings and of it introducing sustainable values and behaviors.”  These are the EMERGING QUALITIES:

INTERACTIONS - quality over quantity TIME - slowness of life SCALE - small means better relationships PLACES - distance should not separate a place for another WORK - “quality of well done” and active craftsmanship

This logic is extremely important to my research, when exploring empathy within communication design and the values contemporary communication design is portraying towards more sustainable lifestyles. Ezio Manzini suggested that Complexity is more enriching than simplicity - complexity enriches human experience. “We do not want to go back to per-modernity we want to go deep in what is human, and understand what we are and do”  - this is what he considers to be the paradigmatic change. He also described another point relevant to this paradigmatic change.  The shift in a Mechanical model to a Biological model (an ecological system).  He believes this will be the epistemological shift: from science based to a people based models.  The ecology of economy as an ecosystem of economies which cannot be separate.  This is the change from a Monological system to an Intrinsically complex system of qualities.  In ecosystems its embedded the notion of limits, its not that everything is possible but a number of qualities combined is possible. Ecosystems are therefore Biological but Multiple - “not islands in an ocean but a continent emerging” - such is the movement of social innovation initiatives.

Main question discussed at the end - are designers ready to design relationships? how? It left me thinking, what is the role of communication design in fostering these qualities/new meanings? To publics which are already informed? and to publics which are not? When I asked Ezio Manzini his opinion on the relevance of communication design within this context, he answered me “it is 90% (well not 90% but almost!)”.

Ezio Manzini's talk at Compostmodern where he describes the Emerging Qualities is here