Student Work

  • Design Studies (MA)

    Laura Wing

    A FORM TO CARE WITH: Design as a mode of action consonant with achieving a politics of small things

    What is critical or subversive in the ‘work’ of familiar objects? What might moments with small things offer in the way of social, psychological, and cultural truths for addressing the problems? This essay aims to be operational; it is best thought as a prototypical study or meditation on the politics of small things with the purpose of enabling critical practice (praxis) and action. Why small things? Because they engender a qualitatively different disposition than current systems (of colonizing, extracting, etc.) and open up complex modes of thinking and doing that, however subaltern, undertake significant political work.The first chapter uses Christopher Bollas’ notion of the ‘transformational’ object to conduct a short study of two objects and propose four key moments for what Bollas’ insights might mean politically. I examine some of the implications for re-thinking agency (“use”) specifically concerned with taking up a commitment to partiality and possibility via points made by Donna Haraway. Then, I briefly explore how design might be considered as consonant to achieving a politics of small things. The second chapter concerns what acting requires of us today—that it has to be with and in relation to things. Referring to Bruno Latour’s discussion of design as a mode of acting that has developed concepts to address the present ‘historical juncture,’ I discuss a slight re-working of his terms: ‘universal interest,’ proposing/positing, negotiating the law, giving measure, and resonance. The final chapter explores what designs offer through positing counterfactual perceptions that model ways of negotiating systems of in-access and unfolding different relations with materials that are concerned for the needs of all. Finally, I ask how they may serve as models of thinking through the problems of justice as recoverable conditions of now.