Words are symbols to communicate ideas as sound vibrations

Language is a technology that helps us to communicate with each other, but it also forms our identity by constraining our ideas to the social, economic, and political environment in which our relationships were formed in the context of families, schools, institutions, and communities.

The Language of Empire

Learning to speak the lingua franca of oppression

About 40 years ago, if you were in school in Canada, aspiring to be an artist, there seemed to be two options: starve or assimilate. The fear was that if you weren’t talented enough to make it as an artist, you would most likely become the stereotypical starving artist. In high school, the education system offered electives to become a commercial artist.

Fast forward 40 years, and we might ask, how has design helped to better society? The news is full of reports of lies, genocide, humanitarian disasters, tragedies, fires, global warming, and sexual assaults. Neoliberal market economics and authoritarian police states are on the rise around the world while corporations monopolize global resources, wealth, and power.

In Canada, George Orwell’s Animal Farm was part of our junior high English curriculum. What do Americans read?

The Deconstruction

There are people whose hearts are breaking over the brokenness of the world, and they are beginning to open up to each other about doubts and questions.

The internet, as it democratizes the production of media, provides an opportunity for people to have a voice, to speak of things that might not be tolerated in certain social circles. The illusion of anonymity allows us to test ideas and questions in public. People have permission to ask questions. They can dare to be their authentic selves.

People have found a name for this process: a deconstruction. People are questioning the institutions and the systems of behaviours and beliefs that they have inherited.

  • The government: institutionalizing injustice
  • The corporation: purchasing power
  • The church: perpetuating abuse

Deconstructing Design

Meanwhile, the design world has also been experiencing an epiphany of sorts.

Some designers are realizing that we have been complicit in building the infrastructure and architecture for an undemocratic capitalist empire that has turned humans into indentured servants of an oppressive hierarchical economic system designed for self-preservation, even if it is at the expense of humans and the planet.

A corporation is a company or a group of people or an organization authorized to act as a single entity (legally a person) and recognized as such in law.

In other words, corporations avoid culpability and responsibility in the eyes of the law for crimes against humanity by impersonating humans. They purchase political power, and they have made the church merely a political voting block and a willing accomplice in the corporate takeover of the federal government of the American empire.

Taking Responsibility

As designers, we must own our part. We who have supported the empire — the government, the corporation and the church — in elevating political, economic and religious values above the value of human beings, either unwittingly or willingly, have been complicit in perpetuating a system of oppression. Taking responsibility is only the first step. We must make reparations. We do this by redesigning and rebuilding.

In order to rediscover our own humanity, we are leaving the empire behind.

The Reconstruction

Now, almost 100 years since the founding of the Bauhaus, we are reconsidering the modernist project.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

— R. Buckminster Fuller

We are building a new model.

Social architecture is the art and science of living systems. We are recognizing that we are no longer designing tools and physical artifacts. We are designing human experience. We are all engaged in the human project.

At the heart of our endeavours is a desire to discover our common humanity.

We are reconnecting to build relationships through face-to-face interaction.

  • Breaking bread together
  • Creating and working together
  • Sharing our lives together