Ethnography and End of Life
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Level: Undergraduate, Graduate
Division: Parsons The New School for Design
School: School of Design Strategies
Department: Design Strategies
Course Number: PSDS 5303
Course Format: Studio
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
Despite the fact that America’s population will soon be composed of more than 20% of those aged 65 and older for the first time in our history, dying remains in the shadows of our cultural conversations. As one of the defining experiences of the human condition, death is at once universal and deeply personal. Now, more than ever, there is an urgency to evolve conversations surrounding the end of life, to understand the experience as a reflection of our personal, cultural, and political values and to use design as an approach to exploring and communicating the options that might contribute to a “good death.” Through seminar, interactive workshops, and hands-on prototyping, this course considers design interventions for individuals and institutions to shift the perspectives and practices that reflect our relationships with mortality. Students will explore historical and contemporary contexts and critically reframe the field by proposing potential means and modes of compassion and care. Critical texts, discussions, case studies, guest speakers, ethnographic research methods and artifacts will support workshops for the design and development of prototypes proposing a variety of futures that reframe design’s contribution to the end of life as one that needs not to be driven by technology and fear.
Course Open to: Degree Students
Course Pre/Co-requisites:
Open to: All university graduate degree students; undergraduate seniors by permission of instructor.


Open to Graduate students.