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Photo by Jay Lee on Unsplash

A Reckoning

We are complicit in manufacturing our capitalist dystopia

I have been exploring many of these themes as a designer, an educator, and a writer since leaving Domain7 at the end of 2012.

Media Criticism

  • Noam Chomsky
  • Marshall McLuhan
  • Neil Postman
  • Jacques Ellul
  • Walter Ong
  • William Leiss, Stephen Kline, Sut Jhally

The Elephant in the Room

However, design has been complicit, whether inadvertently or not, in actively supporting a system of capitalism that is turning design into a commodity, undercutting its value by outsourcing it, and actively replacing it with artificial intelligence that makes the designer obsolete. It is also actively supporting the consolidation of power and the accumulation of wealth for undemocratic, authoritarian corporations who are using their capital to purchase political power around the world.

Christa Avampato

Josh Chambers

Fine Art and Communications

I am looking back over 50 years of my life, growing up evangelical in Canada. In the early years, I felt confused and fearful. Now I am disgusted and angry, coming to terms with a social identity that is unravelling in light of a growing awareness of a wider reality, an evolving perspective as I try to compare my point of view to the lived experiences of others. Here is what I was writing about when I was studying fine art and communications in the early 1990s.

Design and Media

If social media is ripping society apart, then by encouraging engagement with the platform, designers are complicit in undermining civil conversation, mental health, economic equality, and democracy.

The Ezra Klein Show: Whitney Phillips explains how Trump controls the media

Recommended books

  • Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
  • Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble
  • Custodians of the Internet by Tarleton Gillespie

Podcast

The Ezra Klein Show: Ask Ezra Anything

The tendency to be training ourselves into complete and utter and constant distraction, for most people — that is about our choices and how those choices are being manipulated and architected by giant corporations and our built environment.

The Daily: The Human Toll of Instant Delivery

Reality Entertainment

The Hunger Games is not a dystopian future. It is our current reality. According to Neil Postman’s media criticism, we are amusing ourselves to death.

On the Media: Whose Streets?

Peter Norton is a historian in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia. As he surveys the media landscape, he’s seeing a glimpse of one possible future and practically a scene-for-scene remake of the past. The salesmanship behind autonomous cars, he says, ‘harkens to the earliest Detroit strategy of cultivating discontent with the mere status quo.’ In 1929, auto tycoon Charles Kettering actually preached, “Keep the consumer dissatisfied.” And consumer marketing has heeded him ever after.

Crimes Against Humanity

Design for Truth and Reconciliation

After hearing Angela Bains of TransformExp speaking at the Jim Rimmer Scholarship event, A Night of Type, Truth & Design, where she spoke about her work as a designer in freeing Nelson Mandela and ending apartheid in South Africa. I am even more convinced of the role of design to engage in the work of social justice and political, social and human rights activism.

Design for Transformation and Transcendence

The new role of the designer is that of the social architect, a person who understands living systems and processes and seeks to facilitate and guide the activity of individuals and groups to better align with the health and function of the entire ecosystem.

Design Education

To understand our new role as designers will require new ways of thinking about design education. This is what I believe will define this moment in history.

Written by

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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