Site of Power – Space for Change – Place of Resistance

In Design Interventions, Learning Design.Design Learning by Zaza

Design an intervention on a Site of Power – Space for Change – Place for Resistance
A project for IDP 316 [Critical] Design Thinking Studio

This semester, we have been looking at the different ways that design shapes social relations as part of the studio-seminar course IDP 316 [Critical] Design Thinking Studio. Design produces things or systems or systems of things; and people are bound together by and forever wrapped up in a world of things. We have been sampling readings from sociology, archaeology, cognitive science, engineering education, science and technology studies to look at that ethics and effects of designed things.

For a class project- a deep dive into design thinking – the students in IDP 316 worked in teams of 3 or 4 to explore a theme from the readings and use it as inspiration for designing an intervention on an existing space on or close to campus. They chose sites that lent themselves well to the theme being explored: sites where dynamics of power could be observed or where there was interesting space for change or resistance. The students went through a full design cycle to tell a create a new story about their chosen site. This new story would explain how the dynamics of power work, and frame new perspectives on that site to open up possibilities for change or innovation in those sites.

Even though the student were designing an intervention on a site/space/place they still focused on the humans who operate in sites of power and on asking questions about how humans interact with the other humans and non-humans that constitute that site.

As a starting point in coming up with interventions on sites of power

  • Who are all the potential users? Who is the most extreme user of this space?
  • What are the power dynamics of the setting? What do users want to change about it? What kinds of resistances arise naturally?
  • How is the space used, disused, misused?
  • How does the space reflect broader systems of power?

Next, the students went through a process of understanding and observing the site, framing new perspectives for seeing what happens at the site, generating novel ways that people can be re-engaged with the site, putting those ideas into physical form, testing out their feasibility and identifying possible ways to reframe or reiterate on their intervention.

Students developed rough prototypes that reflected their thinking and asked people across campus to engage with them as a way of learning through and with the prototypes. The main focus of the design project was to develop some fluency with framing and reframing complex social problems. Below you’ll find four stories about how each team experienced that problem-framing phase of design thinking.

* A special thanks to Dan Bennett from the Center for Media Production at Smith College for his workshop on video editing.

SC Dining 2.0

Tiejin Zhang, Celine Rosak and Alex Widstrand

Current Smith dining is a student’s frequented but uninformed daily interaction.

We chose to focus the video on the students as the main users because they will be the principal users of the app, even though our most extreme user would be the Director of Dining Services or anyone else in an admin position, such as Andy Cox.

Nature’s Play Box

Matt, Laura, Amanda, Natasha

A seeker of serenity, who feels unheard by an administration that heavily regulates the aesthetics of its campus, needs to find peace away from surveillance and interference.
Student-Created Admissions Brochure for Smith College

Zoe Zandbergen, Yi Wang, and Maia Erslev (ZYM)

Prospective students want a way to see an authentic view of the Smith experience instead of one highly curated by college relations.

For this project, we investigated the admissions process at Smith and ended up creating a prototype for a crowdsourced admissions brochure.

Feedback: How could we have tested more effectively?

Peanut Chew

Zara, Cherry and Shira

An activist whose labor is exploited and uncompensated for their work needs their college to make good for its history of institutional violence.

Try it out!

If you’d like to try this project out, you can download the prompt for it here.
Contact Zaza if you’ve got any questions about adapting it to your purposes.