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Critical Design Theory
 
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Critical Design Theories are in a continuing state of flux and growth. What was critical in the 1960s may seem less so now, in the context of Wars on Terrorism, Global Warming and the apparent triumph of consumer capitalism. Listed in this category are a series of theoretical papers - some by myself, some by respected colleagues who take seriously their role as designers in promoting a world of greater equity and justice. It may seem like a strange suggestion that the designing of the physical world can play a part in shaping social relations, but as Winston Churchill once famously said, "First we shape the world, and thereafter it shapes us."
 
More to the point, many of the papers collected here and the theories that they promote and/or support are premised upon the belief that all human beings (and not just designers) shape the world, and that in so doing thay create themselves. In our modern capitalist world we have mostly been alienated from the capacity to shape our own world. That opportunity is taken from us by others - planners, architects, designers, politicians, developers and so on. And this theft is not just the theft of a privileged opportunity, but the theft of our capacity to make ourselves. The theft is supported by an economy which requires that we work 24/7 in order to just survive, and our capacity for creation is transformed into a capacity for consumption of readymade and fashionable gizmos.
 
The papers and the theories collected here begin from a different point of view. They begin with a belief in the basic human right of everyone to shape the world that shapes them. They build upon this ideology do seek out ways in which to more fully engage the community in the creation of its own world. Community Design is a theory of design premised upon the need for increased public decision-making in the creation of the physical environment. This ideology is consistent with the principles of humanistic socialism, but takes as its unique point of departure not only the issue of class as a marker of social relations, but also the notion of cultural difference which, although often conflated with class, is nevertheless a significant point of departure from Marxist theories.
 
Here, then, are the collected (and regularly updated) papers outlining critical theories of design.

 

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