14 February 2009

I heart Gui

Gui Bonsiepe could be considered a key voice on the discussion of design for development. Here are a few wonderful quotes that help in positioning the aims of my research.

From Design Issues: Volume 22, No. 2 Spring 2006

Design humanism is the exercise of design activities in order to interpret the needs of social groups, and to develop viable emancipative proposals in the form of material and semiotic artifacts. Why emancipative? Because humanism implies the reduction of domination. In the field of design, it also means to focus on the excluded, the discriminated, and economically less-favored groups (as they are called in economist jargon), which amounts to the majority of the population of this planet. I want to make it clear that I don’t propagate a universalistic attitude according to the pattern of design for the world. Also, I don’t believe that this claim should be interpreted as the expression of a naive idealism, supposedly out of touch with reality. On the contrary, each profession should face this uncomfortable question, not only the profession of designers. It would be an error to take this claim as the expression of a normative request of how a designer—exposed to the pressure of the market and the antinomies between reality and what could be reality—should act today. The intention is more modest, that is to foster a critical consciousness when facing the enormous imbalance between the centers of power and the people submitted to these powers, because the imbalance is deeply undemocratic insofar as it negates participation. It treats human beings as mere instances in the process of objectivization (Verdinglichung) and commodification.
To design means to deal with paradoxes and contradictions. In a society plagued by contradictions, design also is affected. It might be convenient to remember the dictum of Walter Benjamin that there is no document of civilization that is not, at the same time, a document of barbarism.

From Design Issues: Volume 19, No. 4 Autumn 2003
There seems to exist a hidden romantic notion of the periphery: that it should maintain its status of pristine purity that would be contaminated by any outside contact. It might be advisable to distinguish between influence and influence. I don’t see anything negative in the endeavor to contribute to a project of social emancipation. I did not come as a missionary to Latin America. What I did was to provide an operational base for concrete professional design action. People in peripheral countries, and Latin Americans particularly, are not as naive as sometimes is supposed. They are critical and demanding. I offered some operational tools in order to do product design, from agricultural machinery to wooden toys for children and low cost furniture, and get rid of the ballast of art tradition and art theory.
If I were called on today to assist in some program, I would focus on the importance of information technology and communication, which have not been considered as decisive factors in industrialization policies so far. I don’t know of any government plan in peripheral countries that takes into account,and tries to do something about, this sector of communication and information technology from a design perspective that puts people in the center. And I would say that design has a vast new field for activity.
"The center knows nothing about the periphery, and the periphery does not know anything about itself.“ This provocative sentence might serve as a breeding ground for reflections about the dialectic relationship between different discourses and practices of design. After all, we live in different places, but in one world!

No comments: