Worldmaking: Design and Designing in Social and Political Context
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: University-wide Programs
Department: University Lecture Program
Course Number: ULEC 2220
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Cultural Studies
  • Design
  • Social Justice
In this course, we’ll delve into a range of approaches to fundamental questions raised by the theory that in the work of making, designers draw on “tacit knowledge” – things known, but not articulated, by the knower. What are the implications of tacit knowledge, and tacit beliefs, for design that seeks to make and change the world(s) in which we live? And what are the impacts on design when these tacit ideas are about structures of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and nation, or what Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a professor of geography, calls “the fatal coupling of power and difference”? Working through perspectives of both designers and “non-designers,” this course will examine the social and political locations – and the tacit and explicit ideas that shape them – of designed objects and systems, as well as collaborative and participatory design processes and ways of working. We will use the emerging context of “social design,” “social innovation,” and “design for change,” in which designers from a range of fields are working locally and internationally to utilize design processes and create artifacts and systems intended to address serious social, ecological, and economic matters, as a framework, asking how differences in stakeholders’ ideas about what constitutes design “problems” and “solutions” in these projects might both limit and expand capacities for design. The course, appropriate for anyone who makes or uses designed things and systems, will draw on key analyses of contemporary and historical relationships of power and cultural meanings, including Cultural Studies, Queer and Feminist Theory, Critical Prison Studies, and Visual Cultural and Design Studies, to help interpret and think through these questions. This course counts toward the Gender Studies minor.
Students must register for both the lecture and discussion section of this course.
Course Open to: Degree Students


Open to Undergraduate students.