Genealogy inquiry

Having to find a design inquiry to explore for a month forced me to look into the topics that stands out to me. I started mapping out all the elements that I care for.

Through this map, I could connect my different interests and identify areas within them. The Brain part is what I am logically interested in, the Senses part is what I sensitively go toward intuitively, and lastly, Ivresse, which could be described as what drives me to represent the places in which I always end up working, the kind of topics that I’ve kept on exploring and that keeps on exciting me. I have also added a few references to the designer that connect to my practice or had an impact on it.

This map led me to write down a few areas of inquiry and the first questions that came to my mind.

>How could we really apply values of equity and justice? >How could we particularise and localize a global world? >Could design ground our multiplicities and connect us to the natural and social ecosystems that we are blindly part of? >How could design catalyze our multiplicities? >How could I redesign policy-making and ground them in a relevant social and environmental context? >Could I start by exploring my own plural and disconnected roots? >Could I play with speculative narratives, participation, and systemic design?

How could design question the future of a super-plural world, looking into its policy-making and individualities?

Fairness and justice

From this question, I started my exploration by wondering: where does this need for fairness and justice come from? Those values are very important as a lot of my previous designs and life actions have been driven by them.

This design Blooming Democracy started from an inquiry into democracy that led me to realize that institutional democracy is not the rule of the people but the rule of some people. It is directly linked to the question of how justice and fairness can be applied in our societies.

Who was I?

To understand these personal values I decided to dive into my own stories, starting with my past. I collected already made research on my genealogy and tried to recall the family stories that I had heard. Stories about last names, origins, actions, and communities.

I won’t display my family tree or those stories online, but they were shared during the classes and I can email them if needed. (note for Cameron)

Through the study of this family tree, I was able to identify patterns that were repeated for centuries. To sum it up I come from a highly-educated men-led family and unknown women with strong Jewish attachments and beliefs. I could also identify that the pattern broke in the 50s. Did it break because of the political context? WW2, revolutions and Nazism? Did it break because of societal values? Is it simply closer to me so the pattern is not visible yet?

What are my worlds? My pasts? My presents? My futures? Who am I in the middle of that?

To connect to get closer to my present I looked through visual family archives. They did not teach much more than what I knew but they abled me to reconnect to the places in which I grew up. Seeing the walls of my family house full of my mom’s art, and seeing how playful and devoted my parents were to my well-being and joy in growing up helped me connect to them and my short past. I could also observe that I was very bossy growing up and was very independent and tenacious, knowing exactly what I wanted from a very young age.

To go to an almost present past I’ve reflected on my current state of being in Vancouver, Canada a place and country that has a loaded political, social, and historical context of the lands and people. Here I have heard about unsettled territories for the first time and also about the stories, of the colonial past (and present) of the lands. Being from a Jewish family in which the relation to the land has been broken over and over again has pushed me toward connecting back to those roots, even though I am as far as I’ve ever been from it. It has created spaces for me to wonder: How as a Jewish person, forced out of places for centuries can I be connected to a place, and feel like I belong? In the context of the super-plural world is it of importance? Is my unrootedness a force that I should explore?

How is the past seen and used?

Besides those personal explorations, I have been looking into works that have been addressing the past with storytelling.

What are the stories from the past that I could bring into the future?

From that, I wondered how to bring my learnings into an interesting format. I wondered who would be my original ancestors. Using the data I had collected I tried to expand my family tree and focused on four main archetypes that could inform where I come from. I have tried to nuance them by having two positive and two negative archetypes. Each of these archetypes is linked to one of my grandparents.

Trying to link the knowledge of the past to a potential future I was interested in who could be my final descendant. It was a very easy and natural descendant to come up with, and through using the understanding of my family patterns and the way I see myself she ended up being quite similar to the person I am.

Generalizing this exercise

From my exploration, I wanted to invite others to go through the same process. I wanted to collect those archetypes relating to futures and pasts. I created a booklet to do that. The booklet was riso printed in a dark purple.

I could collect booklets from five people, which allowed me to have a collection of 20 more ancestors and five descendants. For the good and bad ancestors, there was a common topic of who are the people they connect with and who are the ones they don’t. Most of them didn’t dare to push the archetypes or stayed in very close territories not that speculative or imaginative. Also, the bad ancestors were, to my own belief of what bad is, quite nice. For the descendants, I only collected mostly positive beings that are resourceful. There was a rejection of the ‘bad’ ancestors and a projection of an ideal self.

The booklets were a good way to start but it could be pushed, and this self-reflection could happen in a workshop context, and I could push that idea of archetypes to help participants build strong and deep characters.

Some people also gave me feedback that it was a good way to make peace with personal family stories and find an understanding of them.

Where to go from there?

I would like to pursue by exploring policy-making in relation to the past, the present, the future, and maybe confront it to the archetypes I am collecting. I am also very interested in this idea of utopia that is explored in the above quote from Utopia rediscovered: A redefinition of utopianism in the light of the enclosures of the Commons by Lieven de Cauter.

I will leave this idea of speculative genealogy on the side for now. But I might come back to my archetypes or use a similar process to play with policies.

Why are you designing here?

Why are you designing here? is a role-play game that aims at including non-dominant perspectives in the design process. Questionning what are the elements around you and your design, or what could be, it invites you to question the impact of the design you are developping. It is a reponse to the article Why are we here? A reflexive story of decoloinisng by Yoko, Akama, Juliette, Anich, Areli, Avendano Franco, Jaz, Hee-Jeong Choi,
Liam, Fennessy, Marius, Foley, Leah, Heiss, Tania, Ivanka, Emma, Luke,
Rowan, Page, Tanja, Rosenqvist, Juan, Sanin, and Linus, Tan.

This article explains the strategy behind the ServDes 2020, the first service Design and Innovation conference to happen outside of Europe in its 12-year history. It was written in 2022, one year after the ServDes 2020 that happened in 2021.


Some of the key points expressed in the article are as follows:

  1. We need to open conventions and ways of doing to reinvent them to decolonize and generate accessible and energizing forms of knowledge.
  2. Going back to the values of aboriginal first people is a way to act above the dominant design, acknowledging them by not only listening but also by implementing, again, their values is a way to do respectful and down-to-needs design.
  3. Intergenerational work triggers critical design outcomes, thinking beyond conventions and usual thoughts can push established systems (like conferences) to reinvent themselves.

One of the quotes that triggered a design response was “Design is an industry and discipline that has undoubtedly been a central machine and technology in making decisions about how people should work, live, play, organize and imagine futures [29] [48]. Redirecting what it should become, through ethical ways of gathering, could elevate and expand our thinking and being.” I strongly agree with this statement, and through the article, I was inspired by the strategy they used to redirect what design typically is. Through connections with the aboriginal people of the land where they were hosting the conference, they applied their values. The values lay in the simple traditional welcome that is also the question “Why are you here, what is your purpose?” that Boon Wurrung Elder explains as “this Welcome by a Traditional Custodian comes with obligations to obey the laws of Bundjil, Kulin’s creator deity, to not harm the land (biik biik), waterways (wurneet) and children (bubups) of Bundjil”.

Caring for the people and the localities surrounding the conference was a big part of the process of the organization of the conference. It is also interesting to point out that the decolonizing of this conference, generated better environmental and social values for the conference. I believe that we need to apply this respect in design, caring for the environment and the people that surround the design. Designers tend to forget to consider what surrounds the design, and all of the particles that could be influenced by it, in the now or the future.

With Why are you designing here? I want to invite the designers from our class to consider more than their scope. I want to invite them to think in the system, and out of the seen system.

Playfully, this game allows the designer to think of their design in context, and opens a dialogue between different advocates and localities.
What are the localities impacted by the design? We tend to avoid this type of question. How would the soil or the water be impacted by your design? It can most of the time seem abstract and unrelated, but by asking someone to represent this element and stick to it through the game we might unveil unseen risks on which we should intervene. If you think of smartphone, you don’t think of how it impacts the environment but just by looking at the component needed that are extracted through mining, it is already having terrible consequences. But as I want to invite you to design in system, it was important to include the more active beings, such as elders, insects, infants, indigenous people, and so on. The person picking one of these cards will have to use all their knowledge and try to be their best advocate. This method allows more realities to be considered, it cannot replace the direct input from the concerned ones, but it is an attempt at getting out of the dominant design and going beyond the stereotypical body and social classes we design for.
The advocates present in the game were included by looking at the typical -ism, racism, sexism, ageism, and so on. I was asking myself the question who are the beings excluded from the dominant design? Who is being forgotten? Who won’t be considered but impacted? The answer is infinite and goes beyond the scope of the human. As I do not have absolute knowledge I have left space to add other localities and advocates that should be in it.
Beyond the advocates and localities that are discussing a designer’s project, I added a facilitator who following guidelines will curate the interaction and make it systemic.

Two weeks of design speculation

What is design speculation? How can I turn it into daily practice? How can I make myself comfortable with this new practice? How can I make great speculative stories?

Design speculation is about projections of the known/now, the part that is close to us and that maybe we don’t question. It’s about identifying threats and avoiding them. It’s about imagination and storytelling. Speculation is questioning what is the norm.

Establighing a protocole

To come to a method of daily speculation I read about it, Speculative Everything was a starting point. I then connected with Sumein Shamsher faculty and learned about Re-imagining the now. A game/method to generate redesign of technological systems.

Using the knowledge I had gathered I made my own method:

1- Item and its definition

2- Context: environmental, social, political and cultural

3- ‘What if’ questions

4- ‘How’ questions based on the definition

5- Possibilities to each ‘how’ questions

6- Selection, and looking into related facts

7- Writing an unperfect short story

8- Visualization

Bonus- When stuck watch the Handmaid’s Tale, Black Mirror or reading about design speculation projects.

My item for those two weeks of speculation was the passport. A simple object that to me is unquestioned, I rely on it with confidence. But coming from a Jewish family it has been different for many of its members. The citizenship statute that goes with a passport made it very valuable especially in times of war and hatred that led to episodes of statelessness and in which hiding one’s identity was vital.

First story

What if there was no more physical passports or passport services?

Mind map ‘how?’
Visual

In a TV studio, a man is sobbing, facing the camera. “Please let my Jane come home!”

The reporter explains that Jane, the man’s wife, went on a girl trip. It ended, and the girls came home. Raymond, Jane’s lover, was excited to see her again. He waited at the train station where all the girls arrived, except Jane. They seemed surprised “Raymond! What are you doing here? Already out of the hospital?”. Raymond was confused, then scared, “What happened to Jane?? She’s at the hospital?”. The girls, confused as well, “No, Jane left early. She received a call saying that you had an accident.” The group quickly realized that something was wrong. They went to the police to check her record. Jane apparently came back a few days ago. The officer told them not to worry. He then looked at Ray and said: “hmm, you guys were not married..”.

Raymond with his social media influence connects with other people with similar stories. His story is far from unique, but local authorities cannot do anything. The identity was stated at the border, and according to local police, she is back home. Borders are fluid, so everything is automatic. Some people found evidence that Jane never crossed the border. It is a digital ghost who did it. A person paid by the digital mafia to cross borders using an identity sensor, a sort of cheat code allowing access and making the country believes that they are safely back home.

Rumors are starting to gain importance worldwide. Forgottens, people with no identity, are found. Their country birthmarks are gone, a sign that used to be a second way to check one’s identity. They have no idea of who they are, but people recognize them.

The disappearance does not happen to children or married people. As the border system notifies when a loved one crosses the border a police investigation can start immediately. In the coming years, as international travel is part of daily life, people will get married on their 18th birthday. Soon, being alone will be seen as a weakness and lovelessness will be despised.

Two years ago, physical passports stopped existing. If one has to prove their identity, one must state their name, place of birth, and birth date. A contactless detector will validate or invalidate their statement. Visas are not required to travel, but you must work and spend most of your time in your country. In case of an emergency during a trip, you won’t find the embassy, but the local police will be pleased to help you. Lastly, every newborn has a birthmark with the outline of their birth country.

Second story

What if all countries were to close their borders by refusing access to all foreign passports?

Mind map ‘how?’
The story

Third Story

What if there was a global passport?

Mind map ‘how’?
Story and visual

Forth Story

What if passports were taken from jewish people?

Mind map ‘how’?
Visual

In downtown Vancouver, two young girls, Lena and Maï, are exiting a building. Today is a good day, the first day of Rosh Ashanna, the Jewish new year. They walk happily toward the farmer’s market to buy apples and honey for a sweet year. Once under the market tents, they deactivate their identity devices. The control drones cannot reach under the tents.

The seller smiles at them, “The two of you are here for my best apples, I guess.” The girls smile back and nod their heads. The wrinkly woman with long black hair hands them a bag full of red and juicy apples. Lena reaches for currency in the bag. The woman asks, “How is it up in the clouds?” “Good,” says Maï, “The family is doing good! Sometimes I wish those clouds would give us more space and sun. Hopefully, this war will be over soon.” The old lady whispers, “My son told me they are running out of water. Now that they lost our lakes, we are safe”. “I hope so too,” replies Lena handing a jar full of honey. “Thank you, dear. We are even for this cycle, be safe girls. You don’t want the drones to detect an anomaly”. The girls smile and reactivate the devices to blur their presence to the digital world.

On the way home, they stop by a tree. “I wish we could have some trees up there, but their roots are so deep, they would go through the ceiling!” Lena replies to Maï, “Aren’t you happy with our sheep, bees, vegetable garden, and plants Maï? A house with a garden with neighbors would be better, but we live a great life!” “But Lena! You heard if the war is over soon and the drones gone, we won’t have to be careful anymore, and we will be able to visit all of our friends who left for the mountains.” “If they are still alive…” “Lena! No one died for real in this war, a digital death doesn’t make you a dead human…” “That’s where we disagree Maï, come on, let’s go home before they start without us.”

They arrive at the building, hop in the elevator and press the number four and height. The elevator goes up. It reaches floor twenty and makes a short stop. The screen numbers disappear, and it goes up again, continuing to a hidden floor. The door opens to a crowded room, and a man comes to them “Here you are! Come on, let’s cut those apples so we can start.” Maï and Lena get in happily. The honey is already on the table, and everyone has arrived. This year will be a sweet year. Shana Tova!

Two years ago, triggered by the amount of extremist and far-right governments as well as the climate and refugee crisis, WW4 started. History has proven that in those moments, minorities are under attack. Canada was invaded, and the authority asked the Canadian government to take the Jewish people’s passports. The government accepted, but massive online protests pushed them to do it differently. Helped by online powerful networks, new identities were created. With these new identities, they are free to travel and live peacefully. To give them space to express their identity, they could move to governmental facilities located in the clouds. Lastly, they were all given an invisibility device to guarantee their protection.

Understandings

Speculation and writing a speculative story take time. It is a fun but sometimes difficult process. Getting into the details of a story through the process of writing was quite easy for me. The closer and emotional it was to me, the more difficult it was. It s exciting to see how one tiny idea can lead to a far and complex story. I also got the chance to try Risoprinting through the process, which was very fun.
I am going to keep on working with speculation and maybe even deepen some of those stories.

On a rainy day…

A gift for Diego

Diego and I went to the Master’s rooftop, on the 4th floor of Emily Carr. We sat on one of the picnic tables under the sun and started talking. Diego doesn’t like rain. He comes from Mexico and when arriving in Vancouver he was happy to see how sunny it was. But as we all know it… grey and rainy days will come.


How will Diego, coming from a mostly sunny country, will be able to feel good when the rainy days will come?

I lived in the Netherlands for four years for my undergraduate program. It rains. It is windy, grey, and cold. I decided to use my own experience to make a gift to Diego.


This was outside of my school on April 6th, 2021. A beautiful spring day as you can see… And the snow was not even staying so it was just cold and grey.

I find it important to connect to the things that make one feel good when the weather is sad and gloomy. I decided to create guidelines for Diego, to invite him into a ritual for those rainy days.

The ritual – Elements

A- Corn tortillas

During our conversation Diego mentionned how Mexican tortillas, made with corn were going to be missed by him. I asked if he knew how to make them but he doesn’t. He mentionned that the process was long and difficult. As a food lover I took it as a challenge. And decided to look into Mexican tortillas making. Two of my friends come from Mexico, but none of them new how to make them from scratch. I asked the internet who guided me through the making of them and was able to quite quickly identify the ingredients needed. I went on a trip to a Mexican store to buy the right ingredients, and ask a few questions.

I then made the tortillas following their advice as well as the different online recipes I could find online, to make the tortillas as easy and good as possible.

B- Activities

Along with the tortilla making I wanted to invite Diego to connect to the things he enjoys. We talked about his lover who is still in Mexico, the sports he loves, the movies he watches, his family, and food again… Out of all those elements I suggested to him a few activities that I think he would enjoy will making tortillas.

Understandings

Through this assignment, I learnt a new recipe from a country I do not know very well. I also connected to Diego and understood him better, and maybe make a friend. It was also interesting to reflect on my rainy day rituals. I hope that when they will come, Diego but also I will be able to go through them with a lot of comfort and happiness.