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Back to the Sustainable Future: Visions of Sustainability in the History of Design



Location: Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich

OrganizersFinn Arne Jørgensen (Umeå University), Kjetil Fallan (University of Oslo)

Design and designers hold an ambiguous place in contemporary environmental discourse. They can easily be blamed for causing environmental problems, but also have the competences required for solving them. Despite this long-standing centrality of design to environmental discourse, and vice versa, deep and systematic "environmental histories of design" are few and far between. While environmental historians have increasingly explored technology and material culture as active agents in discourses of environmental change, design is seldom explicitly addressed. At the same time, design history faces a major challenge in accounting for environmental concerns in the history of design discourse. This workshop will explore the common ground emerging at the intersection of these two fields of inquiry with the aim of establishing mutually beneficial understandings upon which to build a new interdisciplinary research agenda. What can environmental history contribute to, and gain from, knowledge of design's environmental impacts? How can design history engage with issues of environmental controversies and sustainable development and thereby move beyond its conventional societal significance? Can engagement with the environmental histories of design enable more resilient futures?

The papers given will address these and related questions based on relevant case studies. The workshop will consist of short presentations and thorough discussions of pre-circulated papers, which be submitted to the organizers by 15 May 2015. Our ambition is to organize a special issue of a prominent journal featuring a selection of the workshop papers.

Abstracts can be found here.

More information on the program can be found here.

Read the conference report here.

The workshop is part of the research project Back to the Sustainable Future: Visions of Sustainability in the History of Design, funded by the Research Council of Norway and headed by Prof. Kjetil Fallan, University of Oslo.