A screenshot of the workshop outline and mode of online participation at 9th Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD) Symposium at NID Ahmedabad, India, 9-17 October, 2020.

Futures Design, Language and Systems – A Workshop at RSD9

As FUEL4DESIGN project members from AHO, we held a successful workshop on the Design Futures Lexicon at the 9th Relating Systems Thinking and Design Symposium at NID Ahmedabad, India, 9-17 October, 2020. With the title ‘Futures Design, Language and Systems – Towards languaging pluriversal futures’, the workshop aimed at building an understanding towards ‘languaging’ of futures and open a systems-level enquiry into challenges of imagining alternative and pluriversal futures within design.

Words and language are inextricably linked with a designer’s ability to shape futures, both productively and analytically. This workshop built on the work done within the first work package ‘A Lexicon of Design Futures Literacies’. The workshop focused on introducing a suite of tools curated for an exploration into the role of language within futures design projects. With the long-standing experience of Systems Oriented Design at the Institute of Design at AHO, the workshop raised questions of language discourses, issues of mediations and representations, especially when working on futures with systemic implications.

A screenshot of the Miro board with presentation slides and links to the Design Futures Lexicon resources.

Participants included a mixed group of master students, educators and researchers.

They were introduced to an archive of resources and taken through some activities to build curiosity and familiarise for self-exploration. Miro was used to facilitate the workshop via Zoom in an exclusively online format. It acted as a holistic interface for presentations and a workspace for group work and overall facilitation. This doubled up as a resource and archive for participants to access after the event as well. 

The Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD) Symposium is an international conference series started at Oslo 2012. The series has the intention to promote and foster the emerging practices and theory development for systemic design for service systems, social systems, policy development and complex contexts. RSD has been held in Europe and North America and most recently India (online).

A screenshot of the Miro board with participants responding to prompts from the first set of activities when using the FRAMES4FUTURES tool.

The workshop began with sharing the resources from the first two themes within the Lexicon. The participants began with discussing their existing vocabulary when talking about futures. Using a device called FRAMES4FUTURES, participants mapped their words and discussed how those words related to systems design and concepts of complexity, cultures, conditions and communications. 

Words contain within them encoded positions and world views which help us connect and articulate concepts. Words with futures orientation contain potentiality, an open-endedness which affords finding new connections as opposed to simply following them. The next phase of the workshop focused on looking at ‘words as materials’, where the participants were introduced to Lexicon tools such as BALLUSION and REFLEXICON. Using the 50 FUTURES DESIGN WORDS, participants explored new words and definitions and learnt how an explicit futures orientation can influence conceptual affordances implied within words.

A screenshot of the Miro board showing a group workspace. 

In the final phase of the workshop, participants were invited to try out REFLEXICOVID – an interactive game that provokes critical reflexiveness when attempting complex problems in relation with language, futures and systems design. The aim was to give participants an opportunity to create a project brief based on the ongoing complex challenges in the context of COVID-19. This exercise allowed them to apply what they had learned in a practical project setting. 

We thank the participants for joining us for the event and we welcome their inputs and suggestions.

A screenshot of the FUEL4DESIGN twitter feed.