Hi all! As a lecturer in industrial design i developed a new course: Social Cohesion Design. How to develop product-systems (Community Integrated Product Systems) to enhance Social Cohesion. Watching the riots in England its about time that designers stand up to design city elements that improve social climate. A “Social City” so to speak. Is anybody doing research or practical design in this direction? Are there Design Schools working in this directions? For the new course a new Methodology is developed. The so called 3-i Methodology. We did 2 pilots with 20 teams at the Technical University in Delft (Industrial design faculty), The Netherlands, with promising results. A new Paradigm for Designer Practise may be born!
Social Cohesion site=bar or pub.
We are working on a project to improve social cohesion on a street level. “Straatstarters” is a government funded research program where we’re trying to find simple solutions that lead to more social interaction between neighbors. We are preparing the first research phase, where we are going to use cultural probes to get a good sense of people’s views and motivations. More information: http://www.pantopicon.be/projects/straatstarters
Hmmm. Looking at the statements from some of the London rioters, they were more concerned about vandalizing and looting than actual productive social interaction. London seemed like a perfectly ‘social city’ before the riots, which points to the possibility that the social discontent that led to the riots had nothing to do with design elements of the city itself, but the ramifications of social policy that encouraged the ‘what about me’ philosophy. The rioters acted like an infant suddenly removed from his mother’s breast - a mental condition that requires more than redesigning city infrastructure or social spaces.
I don’t know of any design programs, but I would encourage you to talk to our brothers in sociology, anthropology and psychology. There is a lot of good primary research out there looking at how different elements in out society have influenced socializing. It is a mine of inspiration waiting to be tapped by a course like you are designing!
Of particular, I would recommend looking at the works of Richard Sennett. Particularly “the Fall of Public Man”. He talks about how changes in public spaces changed our social relations.
I went to Emily Carr University and there were a few classes that were very closely related to what you are talking about. They have more of a holistic and social bent to their course work.